May 9, 2014 1:14 pm

Crews help disentangle a humpback whale off Washington coast

Whale while still entangled

Cascadia Research Center

VANCOUVER – A humpback whale, estimated to be about 40 feet long, became so entangled in crab pot gear earlier this week it was almost completely immobilized and was running out of time.

The whale was first sighted in Grays Harbour, off the coast of Washington State, in the morning of May 6.

A commercial crab boat had spotted the whale struggling to swim and called the Grays Harbour Coast Guard, who contacted the Cascadia Research Center.

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They decided to go and help as the crew in the crab boat were willing to stay with the whale and keep sight of it until others arrived.

The whale, estimated to be about three to five years old, had the crab gear wrapped around its tailstock and flukes. The gear had algae growth on it, indicating they had been wrapped around the whale for some time.

While the humpback allowed the boats to approach it with no problems, it was surfacing almost vertically so it made cutting the gear away even more difficult.

Members from the Cascadia Center say after about four hours of working on the whale its behaviour changed and it seemed more active. They believe some of the original gear was no longer attached and while this made it hard to stay with the whale it did show its back more regularly. Through a combination of boat maneuvering and using the line as a guide, the crew were able to hook one of the lines with their pole and cut it. After about 30 seconds the line broke and they were able to completely free the whale and retrieve the gear.

The whale swam away from the boat and was not seen again.

Some of the gear that was entangling the whale that was removed. Credit: Cascadia Research Center

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