Posted by: The ocean update | October 14, 2015

Entangled humpback whale Lacuna now gear-free in Bay of Fundy (Nova Scotia, Canada)

Fishing rope can be seen looped around the back of Lacuna near his dorsal fin. (Submitted by Shelley Lonergan)

Fishing rope can be seen looped around the back of Lacuna near his dorsal fin. (Submitted by Shelley Lonergan)

October 14th, 2015. ‘It was the best Thanksgiving gift I could have ever received’

Lacuna, a humpback whale spotted entangled in fishing gear in the Bay of Fundy this summer, has shed the gear on its own and is now free.

“I was screaming, ‘Lacuna’s free, Lacuna’s free,'” Shelley Lonergan, chief naturalist and research co-ordinator with Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises told CBC News.

“I emailed everybody I could think of from the boat.”

Lonergan said they came across Lacuna by accident while on a research trip in the Bay of Fundy on Monday.

“We saw two humpback whales that were travelling together and as we approached I noticed the dorsal fin of one of them and it looked familiar and it just dawned on me that it was Lacuna,” she said

Lonergan was able to get a good look at the whale, confirm his identity and take pictures showing he was gear-free.

“I was so happy,” she said. “It was the best Thanksgiving gift I could have ever received and I was very thankful to see him.”

Feared the worst

She said Lacuna hadn’t been sighted since mid-August and she thought the worst because his health looked as if it was deteriorating.

“He wasn’t in really bad shape but you could tell he was a bit thinner than he should be so I was concerned he was gone,” she said.

It’s hard to say how the whale shed the gear but it’s a pretty common occurrence for a lot of humpbacks, according to Scott Landry, the director of marine animal entanglement response at the Centre for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass.

“A lot of whales become entangled every year and a lot of the whales deal with their own entanglement without human intervention,” he said.

A team from the Centre travelled to the Bay of Fundy this summer to conduct whale research and was hoping to free Lacuna.

Landry said the first whale they spotted in Canadian waters was Lacuna but it was late in the day and very foggy so their efforts were thwarted.

“Obviously a lot of people worked very hard to try and do something for Lacuna this summer and it didn’t work out and we weren’t sure if this was going to be a whale that we would ever see again so Lacuna has happily surprised us,” Landry said.

Time to recover

He said the whole network of folks on the East Coast from the Bay of Fundy down to Florida is very relieved to hear Lacuna is OK and the pictures show the whale is in pretty decent condition despite having been entangled for most of the summer.

“Now the whale has some time to put on lots of weight before migration and that’s what the whale needs because when it heads down to the Caribbean for the winter for breeding there’s no food for them to eat so they’ve got to put on weight here,” he said.

“It’s such a relief because every year we always have a couple of whales that escape our help and in many cases we never know what happens to them,” he said.

“In this case, it’s really good to have a period at the end of the sentence.”

Lonergan called Lacuna a “survivor” and said she is now looking forward to his return to the Bay of Fundy next year.

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