WARNING: Some readers may find the photos below disturbing.
VANCOUVER – Staff members at the Pacific Region Fisheries and Oceans Canada say they are frantically searching for a juvenile humpback whale last seen off the coast of Tofino.
The whale is entangled in rope that is cutting deeply into its flesh and the animal is in distress.
Paul Cottrell, the marine mammals coordinator, says two weeks ago a crew spent two-and-a-half hours in an exhausting effort trying to disentangle the whale. They were able to loosen the ropes but not remove them.
The whale then swam away.
That was the last time the animal was seen.
Cottrell says the situation is pretty dire and the long term prognosis is not good because of how the gear is cutting into the whale’s body.
“It is so tight around the body that the right pectoral fin is encumbered by the line,” he says. “It is cutting into the fin and almost right through it.”
There is also a large mass of rope underneath the animal and it is impacting its ability to move or dive.
Cottrell says the whale could be anywhere along the West Coast of Vancouver Island by now.
“It could have travelled a significant distance. We think it likely moved off shore.”
If anyone sees the whale off the west coast of Vancouver Island they are asked to call 1-800-465-4336.
If you see the whale, stay back and do not engage with it or the gear as it may be very dangerous.
Cottrell says anyone who sees the whale should call in and keep an eye on it until the rescue team arrives.
“The key is for the rescue team to know where the whale is when they are en route.”
No rescues will be attempted by Fisheries and Oceans unless there are sightings.
However, a team is available for a rescue should there be any reports from the public.
Photos taken by Dr. Jim Darling:
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