Posted by: The ocean update | July 21, 2015

Wayne Ledwell frees endangered right whale off Nova Scotia (Canada)

Nova Scotia

A team from Newfoundland and Labrador released this endangered right whale during a deployment to the waters off Nova Scotia this past weekend. (Andrew Reid/Marine Mammal Response Society)

Newfoundland-release group stumbled upon rare species in search for entangled humpback

July 21st, 2015. A first-ever deployment of Newfoundland’s Whale Release and Strandings group to the waters off Nova Scotia resulted in a chance encounter with an entangled right whale — one of the Atlantic’s rarest.

Wayne Ledwell and assistant Everett Sacrey travelled to Nova Scotia over the weekend.

They were responding to a call for assistance to free an entangled humpback whale in the waters off Ingonish, Nova Scotia.

Fisheries officers had placed a satellite tagging device on the gear attached to the whale.

Ledwell met up with members of the Marine Animal Response Society, and they began pursuing the whale on Saturday.

However, the humpback kept moving farther offshore, and eventually beyond the safe range for them to continue.

That’s when Ledwell and the others spotted another whale in distress.

It was a right whale that had become entangled in the ropes attached to a large crab pot.

North Atlantic right whales are among the rarest of all marine mammal species, with their population estimated at between 400 and 500.

Ledwell said it was tangled in the heaviest rope he’d ever seen, and the rope was embedded deep into its flesh.

It took a couple of hours, but the large male was eventually freed.

He said its tail was visibly damaged, but “it just took off.”

It was the first right whale ever freed by a Newfoundland crew, he said.

The only other known incident in Newfoundland and Labrador took place in St. Mary’s Bay in 1984, Ledwell explained.

Right whales are very big and strong, and it’s assumed the whale in that case swam away with the gear and eventually died.

Found the right whale

So the running joke became, they found the wrong whale on Saturday, but it ended up being a right whale.

“It was pretty satisfying,” said Ledwell.

Photos were sent to the New England Aquarium. Ledwell was surprised to learn how much information staff had on the whale.

The whale was born in 2001 and its name is “White Cloud.”

It was entangled twice before, but was able to shed the gear, and was last seen off Cape Cod this past spring, said Ledwell.

As for the entangled humpback whale that they originally hoped to free, the satellite device tracked the mammal to the water south of Burgeo — on Newfoundland’s south coast — as of Monday.

Ledwell and Sacrey are hoping the humpback swims closer to shore so they can make an attempt to free it.

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