August 15th, 2016 (Kashmala Fida). Entangment of 12-metre right whale spotted near Campobello Island worst scientist has seen.
An endangered right whale that was severely entangled in fishing lines in the Bay of Fundy was rescued off the coast of Campobello Island over the weekend.
“I’ve never seen a whale with so many lines on it,” said Moira Brown, senior scientist for the Canadian Whale Institute on Campobello Island, who was on the rescue mission.
The estimated 12-metre North Atlantic right whale had lines around its head and flippers, through the baleen and around its body.
The New England Right Whale Research boat spotted the whale about 11 a.m. on Saturday and called the Campobello Whale Rescue Team.
“It was long operation,” said Brown, estimating it took about five hours.
“We have specialized cutting tools which are knives that are hook-shaped but that are sharpened on the inside. Quite frankly we lost count after we made 10 cuts on this whale,” she said.
Since the whale was constantly diving down and coming back up, the rescuers had a small window to cut the lines up.
“You are on the fly, you are moving while this is happening, so you probably get 15 to 20 seconds to try to get in and you try to pick the right rope too, and actually locate it and try to get the knife on it and cut it. So, it’s pretty hard sometimes,” said Mackie Greene, a fisherman and volunteer rescuer.
The North Atlantic right whale has species spread across the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia and Gulf of St. Lawrence to the coast of Florida.
There are only 500 of this species remaining in the entire North Atlantic region. They are most commonly found in the Bay of Fundy during the summer time.
Greene said once the whale was free, it swam off as fast as it could.
Brown said whales getting tangled in fishing gear is a common occurrence.
“Of our catalogued whales, 83 per cent of them have scars on their bodies from entanglement,” she said.
“The worst case scenario is the whale can’t get to the surface, where it can breathe, and it can die in the gear. And the best case scenario is that it sheds the gear on its own,” she said.
She said they have been looking for a solution for 20 years now.
“In the U.S., they have come up with a couple of different solutions, by changing the rope over from the rope that floats to rope that sinks. But the right whales dive down very deeply to 600 to 700 metres that we know of. It’s very dark down there they just can’t see it and they can stumble into it,” Brown said.
She said the problem isn’t as frequent in the Bay of Fundy as fishing happens in the winter season when the whales aren’t in the bay.
The whale rescue team consists of a volunteer team of fishermen who work alongside scientists from the Canadian Whale Institute to rescue tangled whales.
“We get at least two to three entanglements a year,” Greene said.