Recent entanglement of humpback whale near Bella Bella highlights increasing numbers says education group.
The humpback whale had been entangled and stationary for about 12 hours, caught in a vertical line near an unused fish farm near Klemtu on the central coast.
Department of Fisheries and Oceans Marine Mammal Coodinator Paul Cottrell, based in Vancouver was notified, then quickly assembled a team and flew in to free the animal.
The operation took nearly six hours.
“We were very patient and I think that definitely paid off at the end to be able to get in right close and make those cuts” Cottrell told CHEK News.
The DFO says there are about 3000 humpbacks now in BC waters and a study by the Marine Education and Research Society indicates this one whale is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to entanglements.
“As many as 47% of the humpbacks that feed in British Columbia have been entangled at some point in their lives and survived. What that doesn’t capture is how many are getting entangled and then disappearing, dying at sea” said the Society’s Jackie Hildering.
The whale was freed to live another day but even on it there were indications that it had been entangled before.
“We do see large whales with scar markings, animals will often get entangled and gear will fall off on it’s own which is great” said Cottrell.
Researchers say if people see an entangled whale they should call the DFO reporting line 1-800-465-4336.
“So terribly important, things have changed, we now have whales as big as school buses back on our coast, the population is increasing, it’s a wonderful thing but it means you can not in areas of known density for humpbacks move in your boat in the same way you would have in past years” added Hildering.