An entangled humpback whale — one that was barely able to swim from being tangled in hundreds of feet of rope — has been set free.
On Sunday, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) was alerted to a whale in distress, towing gear off Broughton Archipelago Marine Provincial Park.
Paul Cottrell, a marine mammal coordinator with DFO, says a team quickly headed out to find the whale and was able to put a satellite tag on the animal.
“It had over 400 feet of rope and buoy that it was trailing,” says Cottrell.
On Monday morning, the team headed out again and found the whale just off Port Hardy, near the airport.
“The animal was exhausted, it was with the gear and it was trumpet blowing. You could tell it was in severe distress,” he tells Glacier Media.
Cottrell and a team from DFO were on a rescue vehicle and support vehicle to try and rescue the mammal.
“This poor animal had multiple wraps around the tailstock and then had the line going up through the mouth, so it was hogtied,” he says.
DFO is investigating and believes the gear was recreational prawn gear, not commercial gear.
"This animal was probably foraging and he got this gear through his mouth and then became entangled. So it's all accidental,” says Cottrell.
He adds the whale was unable to swim.
“We were able to get in and the goal was to get all of the gear off, always, because even if you leave on a little bit of gear, [it] can still kill the animal.”
After much effort, they were able to get the animal loose.
“You could tell it had a burst of energy,” he says. “We did follow it for another half an hour and just watched the animal and its whole behaviour and energy level changed dramatically.”
DFO is optimistic the whale will recover. Cottrell notes it did have some injuries on the tailstock from the entanglement.
He says the success of this rescue was aided by someone calling the DFO reporting line (1-800-465-4336) right when they spotted the whale.