An investigation has now been launched as more details are becoming available about last week’s death of a humpback whale at an empty fish farm in Sheep Passage near Klemtu, B.C.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) says on Nov. 15, they received a notification from Marine Harvest that a humpback whale was found entangled at the company’s Lime Point site north of Klemtu.
DFO staff visited the site shortly after the incident to collect information and take samples.
Michelle Rainer with DFO says their specialists will use this information to determine the animal’s prior health and cause of death.
There was no information provided on the gender or age of the whale.
Rainer says DFO’s Conservation and Protection unit is also investigating the incident to ensure that Marine Harvest was in compliance with its licence conditions and to determine whether considerations under the Species at Risk Regulations should be taken into account.
The Lime Point facility has been empty since December of 2015. As there were no fish being raised at the site, Rainer says fish food was not a factor in attracting the whale.
“It is very unusual for a marine mammal to be attracted to a fallow aquaculture site,” Rainer said.
Marine Harvest says the whale was discovered while staff and contractors were in the process of dismantling the site’s anchoring system after a previous entanglement.
On Sept. 12, a juvenile humpback whale was discovered entangled at the same site. A joint six-hour rescue effort by DFO, Marine Harvest employees and local First Nations managed to disentangle and free the whale.
Rainer says it is not known if the deceased whale is the same whale that was disentangled in September.
The company says its employees have now dismantled the entire site.
Prior to September’s incident, Marine Harvest says no such encounter had occurred in the company’s 30 years of operation. The company will be surveying all aquaculture sites with similar anchoring designs and its engineers will be making the required changes to eliminate the risk of re-occurrence.
Rainer says after the September incident, DFO and industry began discussions on the removal of the type of lines in which the whale had become entangled.
Marine Education and Research Society told Global News their preliminary research conducted with DFO suggests 47 per cent of humpbacks have scarring on their tailstocks that indicate that they have been entangled and survived, meaning almost one in two humpbacks that feed on B.C.’s coast have been entangled at some point in their lives.