Entangled Juvenile Humpback rescued by trained DFO staff

People are encouraged to report marine life entanglements as soon as they see them

The Humpback whale sustained severe injuries

The Humpback whale sustained severe injuries

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans was called into action to rescue a juvenile Humpback whale near Klemtu on Sept. 12.

The whale, estimated to be under three years of age, was caught up in an anchor line near one of Marine Harvest’s empty aquaculture sites – the Sheep Passage fish farm.

“Our company has never experienced a whale caught up in an anchor line before,” said Marine Harvest Communication and Media spokesperson Ian Roberts, adding that there were no nets or fish at the site when the entanglement occurred.

“Fortunately our staff were quick to call experts at Fisheries & Oceans Canada following marine mammal distress reporting guidelines, and the team (lead by DFO Marine Mammal Coordinator Paul Cottrell) was able to safely free the whale,” said Roberts.

“We will review how this may have happened, and if we find changes are required to our anchoring design, we will do this across all farms,” Roberts said.

DFO received a number of calls about the whale, over a number of hours, said Cottrell.

“I came up and joined fisheries officers and the Kitasoo First Nations’ Coastal Guardian Watchmen Network who were on site, monitoring the whale until we arrived,” said Cottrell.

“We went and assessed the animal. You have to be so patient. We didn’t want to disturb the animal further,” he said.

They eventually got close enough to see the whale had several wraps around its body which caused severe damage on its dorsal side and tail flute. The rope was also through its mouth. The whale was anchored to an anchor line and “had very little movement,” Cottrell said.

“It was a very difficult entanglement. One wrong cut and we could leave gear on the animal that could be lethal.”

The painstaking process took six hours. The whale received a lot of superficial rope injuries, however, “we’re cautiously optimistic that the animal will make a recovery,” he said.

“We got all the gear off which is huge.Even one wrap can cause the death of an animal.

“”We’re going to monitor this animal,” he said.

“Over the past month, local residents had reported a similar-sized humpback whale swimming lethargically and thought to be entangled with marine debris,” said Roberts.

Cottrell confirmed that it looked like there were ropes that were potentially on the animal, that didn’t appear to be related (to the fish farm), “but we do have to confirm that (by looking at the video).”

They also discovered the whale had scars from a previous entanglement.

Cottrell said disentangling a whale is “very dangerous. You have to have specialized training and specialized tools.”He has done over 30 disentanglements, averaging three to five each year.

“Unfortunately, it seems to be happening more and more.”

Marine Education Research Society Education and Communications Director Jackie Hildering said the whale is one her group does not recognize and has not catalogued. However, “the photos we have would allow for re-identification,” Hildering said.

It is essential that more coastal British Columbians know what to do if an entanglement is witnessed since, with increasing numbers of humpbacks on B.C.’s coast, the risk of  entanglement has become greater.

“Our preliminary results from research conducted with MERS/DFO suggest that over 47 per cent of Humpbacks in B.C. have been entangled,” said Hildering.

This data provides an indication of how serious the risk of entanglement is, but does not reveal how many Humpbacks die.

“That is only those that were entangled and survived,” she said.

People who find an entangled whale should immediately report it, along with the location, to the DFO Incident Line/VHF 16 or by phone 1-800-465-4336.

If at all possible, people are asked to stay with the whale, at a safe distance, until trained help arrives or another boat takes over tracking, otherwise the chances of finding the whale again are greatly diminished.

People should take whatever video/photos are possible, but maintain a distance that doesn’t stress the whale.Do not attempt to remove any fishing gear or rope from the whale as it risks human and whale safety and has led to human death.

Often, much of the fishing gear the whale is tangled in is not visible at the surface. Trailing gear provides the opportunity for trained responders to attach a tag to track the whale and/or to attach floatation devices to maintain contact with and slow the animal down.

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Black Press Media file
Port Hardy RCMP on the hunt for porta-pottie arsonist

The porta-potties were lit on fire early in the morning on June 13

Eke Me-Xi students enjoy a field trip to Malcolm Island. (Submitted photos)
Eke Me-Xi Learning Centre takes field trip to Malcolm Island

Once at Bere Point, students made themselves at home in the day-use area

Mount Waddington Regional Fall Fair logo
Mount Waddington Regional Fall Fair cancelled again due to COVID-19 restrictions

The 2022 fall fair is still scheduled to take place in Port Hardy

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read