Have you seen this whale?? A young humpback whale, entangled in multiple crab trap lines, has been spotted numerous times in the waters around southern Vancouver Island. The humpback whale is only the size of a calf, but no mother has been seen. The crab trap lines appear to be entangled in the calf’s mouth and pectoral flippers, and scars indicated that it has been entangled for some time.

The young whale was first spotted off Tofino in mid-May, and again near Victoria in early June. The whale was last seen on July 5, 2008, near Sekiu, Washington in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. At that time, a combined rescue effort was initiated by researchers from Cascadia Research and the US National Marine Fisheries Service. Although the disentanglement team was not able to remove any of the fishing gear, they were able to attach some marker buoys and a radio beacon so that they could find the whale again the following day. Unfortunately, that evening some well-meaning fishermen also found the whale and removed the marker buoys, thinking that this would help the whale. Instead, this meant that the rescue team were no longer able to relocate the whale.

Researchers are now still looking for the entangled whale so that they can get close enough to safely remove the fishing gear. Without being disentangled, the calf’s chances of survival is extremely low as it will not be able to feed. If you see this whale, or any other marine mammal that is entangled or in danger, please call DFO’s hotline immediately at 1-800-465-4336.

As more humpback whales return to our waters, more entangled animals are being reported along our coast. Another juvenile humpback whale near Tofino was successfully disentangled last month by a team of trained disentanglement experts. However, many whales, dolphins and porpoises die in oceans around the world from discarded or active fishing gear. You can make a difference, by choosing sustainably caught seafood, and by reporting all sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoise and sea turtles to Wild Whales!

For more information:
Entanglement threats to cetaceans
News article about the entangled young humpback whale
News article about the successfully disentangled whale (June 2008)