The Campobello Whale Rescue Team says an entangled North Atlantic right whale spotted last week in the Bay of Fundy appears to have been freed.
Jerry Conway with the rescue team says the whale was spotted late Sunday afternoon and a crew went out and cut off a buoy and line that had been hampering the animal.
Conway says it’s not known if they got all of the fishing line off the whale because it didn’t lift its head, but it seemed to be swimming more easily.
The whale, identified as an adult male, was seen Monday morning about 22 nautical miles east of Grand Manan, N.B., with an orange buoy trailing behind it.
The weeklong search for the whale was halted briefly on Tuesday due to heavy fog, but searchers resumed the hunt the next day.
There were 18 recorded North Atlantic right whale deaths in Canadian and U.S. waters last year – most of them in the Gulf of St. Lawrence – mainly due to collisions with ships or entanglements in fishing gear.
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Freeing a whale from fishing lines can be very dangerous, Conway said.
The death of Joe Howlett, a lobster fisherman and a member of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, highlighted the dangerous nature of whale disentanglements.
Howlett was killed a year ago in waters off eastern New Brunswick when he was struck by a whale just after freeing it from fishing gear. His death prompted a temporary ban on volunteer whale rescue efforts that was lifted in March.
Conway said the six remaining members of the whale rescue team are all trained commercial fishermen with plenty of experience out on the water.
Despite the dangers, Conway said disentangling the creatures is an important step in protecting the endangered right whale population.
The whale rescue team team recently freed a humpback calf from a mess of fishing line in the Bay of Fundy just off of Brier Island, N.S. – their first disentanglement operation since Howlett’s death.
There are believed to be fewer than 450 right whales remaining and, of those, only about 100 breeding females.