A humpback whale has been rescued after being entangled near Port Hardy during the weekend.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) received a report on Sunday that a whale was seen trailing gear on the Broughton Archipelago and was in distress.
A team arrived at the scene the following morning, and according to Paul Cottrell, DFO marine mammals coordinator, they were able to get a satellite tag on it.
“The satellite tag was so instrumental in finding the whale right away,” said Cottrell.
“The whale was very distressed, exhausted, and was towing the gear, and you could tell it was agitated.”
Multiple wraps were wrapped around the tailstock, with Cottrell adding that what they think happened was that when the whale got entangled, the traps got stuck on the bottom.
“It was basically anchored, and it broke free from the traps when it got anchored to the bottom, and that’s when the damage occurred on the tailstock,” said Cottrell.
The tailstock suffered from a 3-inch laceration, where also some rope went through the whale’s mouth, essentially hogtying the animal.
Paul and the 4 other crew members got rid of the gear over a 3-hour period, and the whale took off afterwards, with Cottrell saying that they’ll keep an eye on the whale, especially during this time of year.
“At this time of year, if they haven’t already, many animals are heading either to Hawaii or Mexico, so we’ll see if this animal will stay longer, and we’ll notify our colleagues over there to keep an eye out if it makes the journey,” said Cottrell.
When it comes to the source behind the gear, they have it down to two possibilities.
“We’ve narrowed it down to Recreational Prawn Gear or FSC Prawn Gear, it’s not commercial gear,” added Cottrell.
“We’re still looking into the origin of that gear, and between Campbell River and Nanaimo is where we believe the gear is from.”
In a situation where people notice a whale or any other marine mammal in distress, Cottrell encourages them to call their marine mammal incident hotline 1-800-465-4336.