A young humpback whale is enjoying freedom after being set free from a British Columbia fisherman's gill net near Kitimat.

Gil Island, B.C.Gil Island, near Kitimat, B.C.

On Thursday, two humpback researchers in Ursula Channel near Gil Island noticed a net caught over the mammal's head. They called for help and tracked the animal overnight.

On Friday, the Hartley Bay First Nation and fisheries officials joined the researchers and scrambled to set the animal free.

Paul Cottrell, a spokesman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, was part of the rescue effort.


A humpback whale was cut free from gill netting on Friday in Ursula Channel, between Gil Island and Kitimat, B.C. ((DFO))

"The animal was very entangled in a large gill net, probably at least 100 feet with 50 corks and lead line, and it was wrapped right around the head, so the animal was likely not able to feed," Cottrell said.

"This was a juvenile animal, about 25 to 30 feet, and travelling slowly and definitely encumbered by all this gear," he said.

It took the rescue crew at least seven hours to cut the whale free.

"We were all ecstatic. The gear really fell off nicely as we cut the lead line and the key rope and all the webbing. It kind of peeled off like a banana," Cottrell said.

"It was a wonderful feeling when that net peeled off and the animal took off. It was really rambunctious for a number of dives while we were still there watching it."

Cottrell says this is the third time in August a humpback has been spotted caught in a net in B.C. waters.

Earlier this month, a whale near Tofino was set free after getting entangled in a crabbing net.

Cottrell said officials are still hoping to help a tangled humpback that was spotted near Nanaimo.

"We're still keeping our eye out for that humpback whale out in the Georgia Strait that had crab gear on it," he said

That mammal hasn't been seen for several days.

With files from the CBC's Meera Bains