Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)

Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Help was fortunately close at hand for a humpback whale that found itself entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off Nanaimo yesterday.

Paul Cottrell, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Marine Mammal Response Program coordinator, said fisheries officers happened to be working just off Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10, following up on reports of suspected whale entanglements, when an emergency call came in from a commercial fishing vessel just five minutes away that had discovered an adult humpback whale entangled in its prawn trap line.

Cottrell was linked in to the call and advised crews at the scene to stay back and monitor the situation.

The animal, an adult estimated at about 12 metres long, had become so entangled it was anchored in place, possibly for as long as 24 hours, when it was discovered.

“It was a 50-string trap line with anchors on either end on 3,000 feet of rope, so there was a lot of gear that was holding this guy down, a lot of weight,” Cottrell said.

The marine mammal response boat and team rushed to the scene from the mainland and started assessing the situation with an aerial drone and remote-control submersibles. The commercial fisher provided information about the equipment that ensnared the whale.

“We don’t go in and cut things until we know exactly the gear configuration because you can make things worse if you cut the wrong line and also it can hurt the animal, so we took our time,” Cottrell said.

The whole operation took about six hours, including about four hours to disentangle the whale, which had the rope wrapped about four times around its tail.

“The rope that’s used is Polysteel. It’s nasty stuff and it’s fairly abrasive and the animal had injuries on the dorsal side, on the dorsal ridge, from I think when it became entangled … and it was just anchored in place,” Cottrell said. “Its tail stock was down and the animal was just breathing, maybe every five to 10 minutes, just holding position and trying to breathe. It was something.”

With the assessment done, Cottrell’s team was able to move in and cut the rope from around the whale’s tail as well as some loose lines and then they watched the animal for about 30 minutes.

“When it was freed … it took it a while to get back the tail fluke movement pattern, so it was slowly moving and we were just making sure all the gear was off,” Cottrell said. “There was one small piece of loose rope that’s left that we’re going to be monitoring, but there’s no tension on it and we believe it’s around the left pectoral fin. So, that’s something we’re going to watch over time, but it’s not considered life-threatening and it was loose, so we’re almost certain it will fall off on its own … By the end of about an hour after it was acting normally again and was moving on. It was fantastic.”

READ ALSO: B.C. getting a second chance to coexist with humpback whales

Cottrell said there are a large number of humpbacks in the area that have returned to the Salish Sea. The whales winter in Mexico and around Hawaii and return to the Salish Sea in the summer to feed on shrimp and other food sources. Last year about 30 whales returned, but a count for this year hasn’t been completed yet.

Humpback populations have been recovering after they were nearly hunted to extinction before whaling was halted in Canada in 1959.

The whale rescued Thursday has not been identified and its sex is unknown. That information will be gathered later with further observations.

“It couldn’t have worked out better,” Cottrell said. “I’m just still so happy.”

READ ALSO: Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo’s Rocky Point



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

DFOrescueSalish SeaWhalesWildlife

Just Posted

Taylor Bachrach, NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley addresses Parliament on June 7, in call for the federal government to stop fighting Indigenous children in court and to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action. (Image: supplied from Facebook)
NDP motion calling for immediate reconciliation action passes

Skeena-Bulkley MP Taylor Bachrach addresses federal Parliament

Coho is one of many fish species that will benefit from a project to assess fish passage in the Falls River Watershed and offer options for improved connectivity and habitat restoration. The project will be delivered with funding from the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program announced on June 8. (Photo: supplied by FWCP, istock, M.Haring)
More than $2.1 million for Northcoast fish and wildlife projects

Falls River Watershed SE of Prince Rupert to have fish passage and habitat study

UFAWU-Unifor stated on June 8 that there is no evidence of commercial fishing fleet overfishing for salmon. A salmon being weighed in Prince Rupert during the correct season in 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
UFAWU-Unifor responds to DFO’s Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative

Union states there is no evidence of overfishing in the commercial fleet

Ocean Wise’s cetacean photogrammetry research program uses aerial images collected by boat-launched drones to measure the body condition of whales and assess their health and nutritional status. (Ocean Wise Marine Mammal License MML-18 photo)
LNG Canada commits $750K to Ocean Wise

New three-year initiative expands whale research, conservation and education programs in the north west

Loki, a young bald eagle is seen in recovery after being found hanging from power lines on just her second day of independence, last July. Equipped with a GPS, Loki has made a home in Prince Rupert with Hancock Wildlife Foundation asking for help in photographing her. (Photo: Hancock Wildlife Foundation)
Looking for Loki, the new Prince Rupert local

Hancock Wildlife Foundation is asking the public for help

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ plan going forward

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Most Read