"It was basically hog-tied": Rescuers free whale entangled off B.C.
Published Wednesday, June 24, 2015 8:54AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 24, 2015 3:53PM EDT
A dramatic humpback whale rescue, captured on camera, is just the latest in a rising number of whale entanglements off the British Columbia coast, experts say.
Rescuers located the whale near Powell River, B.C. on Monday. It was struggling to breathe after becoming trapped in nearly a kilometre of fishing rope weighed down by dozens of prawn traps.
"It was one of the worst entanglements I’ve ever seen," Paul Cottrell of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans told CTV Vancouver.
"It was basically hog-tied. (The rope) was around the tail, all the way up, and through the mouth."
A group of boaters spotted the whale Sunday night and called the coast guard and the fisheries department.
Fortunately, a team of volunteers and department staff were able to free the animal after an hours-long rescue effort on Monday morning.
Without intervention, Cottrell said the whale would have died.
The number of entanglement incidents has grown, he said, as whale numbers have risen in recent years.
In Richmond, B.C., a local whale watching company is onto its 74th-straight day of successful sightings.
"That’s our best record so far," Cedric Towers, the owner of Vancouver Whale Watch, said. The previous record was 55 days.
On Monday, there was further proof of growing whale populations. A pod of five orcas swam into Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, treating hundreds of spectators to a rare wildlife sighting.
Orcas don’t usually venture out of open water and so close to the city, but this pod was likely searching for seals to eat, said Tessa Danelesko of the B.C. Cetaceans Sightings Network.
While the sightings are exciting opportunities for tourists and marine scientists, they are also raise the risk of animals coming into contact with man-made technology, such as fishing nets, and becoming trapped or injured.
Cottrell said members of the public should call the Department of Fisheries and Oceans if they spot a marine animal in distress, and should not approach the animal themselves.
"Don’t engage or cut anything from a large whale,” he said. “We’ve had that in the past and it hasn’t ended well."
Anybody who spots a struggling animal can also contact the B.C. Marine Mammal Response Network at 1-800-465-4336 or the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network at 1-800-ISAWONE.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Scott Roberts