Alive and whale

En­dan­gered right whale res­cued off Cape Bre­ton.

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY GREG MCNEIL gm­c­neil@cb­post.com

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.

SUB­MIT­TED BY MARINE AN­I­MAL RE­SPONSE SO­CI­ETY

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.

SUB­MIT­TED BY MARINE AN­I­MAL RE­SPONSE SO­CI­ETY

Res­cue teams are shown try­ing to free an en­dan­gered right whale off the coast of Cape Bre­ton. The whale was freed on Satur­day morn­ing.

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