Orca spotted free of rope tangle near D'Arcy Island

An orca spotted three weeks ago entangled in a rope and float appears to be free, the Pacific Whale Watch Association says.

T77A, as the 19-year-old killer whale is known, was photographed off the Thetis Island-Chemainus ferry in Stuart Channel on Nov. 4, prompting a search by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

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After a three-week search that the whale watch association was actively involved in, the orca was found Monday afternoon near D’Arcy Island.

“What a thrill! We headed out [Monday] with a full boat and found a single orca, and that happened to be T77A,” said Capt. Jim Maya of Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching.

The orca is part of a couple of Bigg’s whales known as “the twins” — the other is adult male T49C — because they are often seen travelling side by side.

The whales have identical dorsal fins and notches on the trailing edges of the dorsal fin.

Michael Harris, executive director of the association, which represents 36 whale-watching operators in B.C. and Washington, said it concerned him that while T49C had been spotted since the search began, T77A wasn’t.

“I was elated when Capt. Jim called with the news,” he said. “Our entangled twin is free at last.”

DFO marine mammal co-ordinator Paul Cottrell advises anyone spotting a whale that appears to be entangled to call the B.C. Marine Mammal Response Network at 1-800-465-4336.

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