September 30th, 2016. It’s been a long week for a couple of Bay of Fundy fishermen that rescued a humpback whale that got trapped inside their wEIR nets.
“It doesn’t look stressed or anything,” said fisherman Chuck Breen. “It’s being forced-fed right now. The weir is catching fish and it’s happy to eat. But if you do the wrong thing and it does get stressed, what do you do then. We’re in a small boat, it’s a 30 ton animal.”
The humpback swam into the weir not far from Black’s Harbour on Monday and the fishermen say they were unable to get any help to free the animal.
It’s not unusual for whales or sharks to follow a school of herring into a weir, but usually they find a way out themselves.
When they don’t, the fishermen are often out of their depth.
“I know nothing about a whale. I didn’t even know what kind it was until somebody told me,” said Breen.
Ross Hanley owns the weir. He says as soon as he saw the whale he called the Department of Fisheries and whale rescue groups in the area, but to no avail.
“They said they put everything away for the winter so they don’t want to help. I don’t know why,” said Hanley.
A spokesman for DFO says there are protocols when whales become entangled in lobster lines which include calling in whale rescue groups.
The rules regarding weir entrapments are less clear and fishermen are given advice on how to handle the situation.
Friday morning, the fishermen took the matter into their own hands and made a passage in their weir netting that the whale could swim through at high tide.
“We took down 20 feet of twine and we took we took poles out of the way in three or four places for it to get out,” said Breen.
The fishermen say the trapped whale has cost them a large amount of herring that was in the weir. They say herring catches have been strong recently, so it’s not surprising that whale sightings in the bay have increased recently.