Warning: Some of the images in this story are graphic.
Rescuers have come to the aid of yet another humpback whale entangled in debris left in B.C. water, and photos show it’s one of the most severe cases yet.
Photos taken by a wildlife tour guide show the humpback completely wrapped up in ropes and in need of desperate assistance.
“This animal was definitely in major distress, and just with the ropes, the tight tension, that were wrapping around the animal and seeing the skin and the abrasions and the bleedings, it was awful to see,” said Paul Cottrell of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
“This animal definitely couldn’t have survived too long under that kind of tension.”
Experts say the whale may have already been entangled in debris when it got snagged on an anchor line at an empty Marine Harvest fish farm near Bella Bella.
“There was a rope through the animal’s mouth and wrapped around the head,” said Cottrell.
The whale was tangled up at the farm for hours when help finally arrived and freed it. Photos show multiple bloody abrasions on its body and a thick rope wrapped around its head.
Photos show the damage done to a humpback whale that became entangled in debris off the Bella Bella coast. Sept. 12, 2016. (Photo courtesy Philip Charles)
“This if the first time this has ever happened to us,” said Marine Harvest spokesman Ian Roberts. “So we’ll review the situation and see how our anchor lines may have contributed to this event, and if we need to make changes to our farms, we’ll make them across all our farms if that’s needed.”
Marine educators say it appears a staggering 47 per cent of humpbacks in B.C. waters have been entangled at one time or another.
They also say the two most important messages to get out after the most recent incident is making sure the public knows to report entanglements to the marine mammal hotline – and to not attempt a rescue themselves.
“If we get the call and we can get there, our success rate is huge,” said Cottrell. “It’s all about the 1-800 number, and not having people engage with the animal and trying to cut gear off, because that’s made situations worse in the past.”
The DFO believes the freed whale will stay in the general area for the foreseeable future and said staff will monitor the animal’s recovery and health over the next several weeks.
In June following another whale entanglement, Cottrell said he’s seen an increase in entanglements in recent months, but that could be because of increased reporting.
Anyone who sees an entangled marine mammal is asked to report it to the 24/7 hotline at 1-800-465-4336.
An anchor line became wrapped around the head of a humpback whale off the Bella Bella coast. Sept. 12, 2016. (Photo courtesy Philip Charles)