DFO and Straitwatch team preparing for the disentanglement on Saturday, July 25. (Photo courtesy, Cetus Research and Conservation Society)

Crews work to free three humpback whales entangled near Vancouver Island

DFO crew starts disentangling process for two, before one slips away, looking for a third

Rescue teams have been working to free a pair of entangled humpback whales off Vancouver Island’s northeast coast, well keeping their eyes open following reports of a third.

Three cases of entangled humpbacks have been reported within the past four days, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has confirmed Tuesday.

The Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) identified two of the whales that were reported to the DFO as Checkmate and X-Ray.

RELATED: Entangled humpback whale found dead on remote Vancouver Island beach

A spokesperson for DFO, Lara Sloan, said in an e-mail, that they also received a report of a third humpback in the Central Coast area entangled in a seine net and mobile with a 100 feet of netting. This whale is yet to be relocated.

On Saturday, July 25, DFO was alerted about Checkmate, entangled in Sutil Channel near Quadra Island and a team was dispatched to rescue the whale. The team consists of members from DFO Marine Mammal Rescue, Conservation & Protection (C&P) Campbell River and Straitwatch.

The whale had a crab trap trailing close to it and a rope entangled through its pectoral fin. Since the surface was submerged underwater, the crew was unable to completely disentangle the whale. Given how “tight the rope was to the body of the whale,” the crew were not able to attach a satellite tag to track the whale before it slipped away.

While searching for Checkmate on July 26, DFO received another entanglement report of a humpback calf, X-Ray, that was travelling with its mother. The crew were able to remove 200 feet of rope from the calf.

As the weather deteriorated they attached a satellite tag to the remaining trailing gear to track the whale and continue disentangling it, said Sloan.

The crew worked to disentangle the whale for 10 hours from Salmon Point south of Campbell River to Kelsey Bay where it was last seen. The operation is still underway and the crew is out on the water with Port Hardy C&P (lead vessel) and MERS (support vessel).

In an update, Mark Dombowsky, executive director of Cetus Research and Conservation Society that runs the Straitwatch program, said that the crew have tracked X-Ray and are in the process of completing the disentangling today.

Checkmate still needs to be relocated to remove the remaining entangled gear.

Entanglements pose a serious danger to Humpbacks with over 50 percent of them physically scarred by it. Some instances have also been fatal for the whales. In April, the carcass of an entangled juvenile humpback whale washed ashore on a beach north of Kyuquot on Vancouver Island.

Citizen whale watchers who are able to spot Checkmate based on its markings, can report it to DFO at 1-800-465-4336. Entanglement cases and any marine mammal in distress can also be reported on the number.

Citizens are also advised not to attempt to remove any fishing gear or rope from the whale as it risks both human and whale safety. Professional training and equipment are needed to assess the entanglement.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

RELATED: Spectacular humpback breach caught off B.C. island

RELATED: Humpback whales put on a rare show near Campbell River

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tour de Rock rolls into the Comox Valley

The tour this year featured alumni riders cycling in their specific geographic area

Online series for Valley residents affected by dementia

An estimated 70,000 British Columbians currently living with some form of dementia

Double rainbow delights following first fall storm

It was a light - or double rainbow to be exact -… Continue reading

Valley’s Father Charles Brandt to receive national lifetime achievement award

Father Charles was instrumental in creating the Oyster River Enhancement Society

Comox Valley Ringette Association requests equal ice time

The Comox Valley Ringette Association has appealed to the regional district for… Continue reading

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Liberal Leader talks drug addiction in the Lower Mainland

Drug addiction and public safety a top priority says Andrew Wilkinson

Two people extricated from single vehicle crash near Forbidden Plateau Road

BC Air Ambulance has been dispatched to the scene

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Island Corridor Foundation launches survey on importance of Vancouver Island rail

“ICF remains 100 per cent committed to the restoration of full rail service on Vancouver Island”

Island RCMP remind drivers not to text after 19 tickets handed out in 90 minutes

The $368 fines were handed out Tuesday on Norwell Drive and Old Island Highway in Nanaimo

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Three years for serial bank robber who hit southern Vancouver Island branch

Lucas Bradwell was wanted for robberies in Abbotsford, Sidney and Vancouver

Most Read