A teenaged humpback whale got itself into a whole mess of trouble this past Sunday when he managed to get stuck in an entanglement of 50 prawn traps and their ropes near the mouth of the Powell River in British Columbia.
After numerous boaters saw and reported the 1,100 pound juvenile male struggling against being anchored to the ocean floor, Fisheries and Oceans Canada leap into action. The department dispatched a three man dive team to work at cutting away the ropes. By the time they arrived, the ropes were fully tangled around the whale's body, even tying his mouth shut and starting to cause wounds to his flesh.
"It was one of the worst entanglements I've ever seen," Paul Cottrell of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans noted. "It was basically hog-tied. [The rope] was around the tail, all the way up, and through the mouth."
Even though the whale was just a teenager, diving among a panicked 1,000 pound creature is no easy task. Divers had to avoid thrashing fins as they cut the whale free from head to tail so that it could not swim away before they were finished. After hours of work, the whale was free and significantly calmer. Without the help of this rescue team, Cottrell said the whale would have died. Unfortunately, this type of entanglement is not an uncommon incident. As whale numbers have grown in recent years, so, too, have the incidents of entanglement off British Columbia's coast.
There are a number of young whales that are able to move further inland and closer to prawn traps in British Columbia from May through October as the whales migrate off Canada's Pacific Coast after breeding and giving birth to their young in the warmer waters off Mexico.