Alive and whale
Endangered right whale rescued off Cape Breton.
An endangered North Atlantic right whale entangled in fishing gear off of Cape Breton has a new lease on life after animal rescue groups performed a delicate rescue operation over the weekend.
The rescue was performed on Saturday after the groups came across the 14-year-old male whale while they were searching for a humpback whale that was also entangled in some fishing gear.
“It was literally and directly in our path. The chances of that seem pretty slim to me,” said Andrew Reid, a former Sydney resident who works for the Marine Animal Response Society.
“If we had of been a couple of kilometres off to either side we never would have seen it.”
The operation began Saturday morning with Reid on board a Department of Fisheries and Oceans vessel after DFO had tagged the fishing gear attached to the humpback whale off Ingonish.
His objective was to learn from Tangly Whales, a Newfoundland group that was leading the disentanglement, when they came across the right whale on the Scotian shelf, about 25 kilometres northeast of Sydney.
“It was a pretty severe entanglement. The animal was unlikely to survive unless it was freed so the disentanglement was led by Wayne Ledwell with one of his colleagues to assist and myself to assist and learn.”
The rescue played out over an estimated 90 minutes as the group slowly worked its way toward the whale.
“You have to be cautious of how they will behave and react to your presence. It’s a bit of a slow process working your way towards the animal.”
As they moved closer, they carefully touched a buoy attached to a rope that the whale was tangled in. Once they were close enough, a long hook knife at the end of a pole was used to cut the line. Because there was so much tension on the line, Reid said it took very little pressure to break the line.
“The whale had been showing very little energy, just moving slowly away, but as soon as that line was cut it just bolted,” he said. “It was good to see. I think right whales have a bit of a reputation for not being the friendliest to disentangle from what I have heard. This guy behaved really well and still had some energy.”
The whale’s name — White Cloud — and birth date were later identified by the New England Aquarium.
Reid said the Halifax-based Marine Animal Response Society receives about a dozen reports of entanglements each year. That doesn’t factor in unreported cases and those that simply aren’t noticed.
“We are using the water for shipping and fishing so there is always that potential for that negative interaction. It’s just important that we have the response teams to get out and disentangle them when it happens.”
Currently, groups are monitoring a humpback off Brier Island and a beluga whale near Liverpool. The response society has also received reports of two dead North Atlantic right whales float- ing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
As for the humpback that was the subject of the first search, Reid said it swam too far out to sea to be assisted Saturday but it is now tracking closer to Newfoundland where the Tangly Whales group can attempt a rescue.
An endangered right whale is shown making its way through off Sydney on Saturday morning. The whale was entangled in fishing gear and had to be freed.
Rescue teams are shown trying to free an endangered right whale off the coast of Cape Breton. The whale was freed on Saturday morning.