A humpback whale tangled in hundreds of feet of rope and barely able to swim has been set free.
On Sunday, Fisheries and Oceans Canada was alerted to a whale in distress, towing gear off Broughton Archipelago Marine Provincial Park.
Paul Cottrell, a marine mammal co-ordinator with DFO, said 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,” Cottrell said.
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,” Cottrell said.
Cottrell and a team from DFO were in a rescue vehicle and a support vehicle to try to 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 said.
DFO is investigating and believes the whale was tangled in recreational prawn gear.
“This animal was probably foraging and he got this gear through his mouth and then became entangled,” Cottrell said. “So it’s all accidental.”
After much effort, they were able to get the animal loose.
“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,” he said, noting the whale had some injuries on its tailstock — where the tail meets the rest of the body — from the entanglement.
The rescuers followed the freed humpback for about half an hour, Cottrell said. “You could tell it had a burst of energy … its whole behaviour and energy level changed dramatically.”
Despite its injuries, DFO is optimistic the whale will recover.
Cottrell said the success of the rescue was aided by someone calling the DFO reporting line at 1-800-465-4336 as soon as they spotted the whale.