Saving Barney: Whale reportedly spotted free of fishing gear

A rescue team is trying to save a humpback whale that's been caught in fishing gear off Mobile on the Southern Shore.
A whale rescue team is trying to save a humpback whale caught in fishing gear off Mobile. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

A humpback whale that was caught in fishing gear off Mobile, south of St. John's, seemed to have freed itself Wednesday evening.

However, whale rescue officials said they are still trying to verify whether or not the whale has, in fact, been freed from the gear, noting it's difficult to distinguish between whales.

Staff with Molly Bawn Whale and Puffin Tours, which operates in the area of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, first spotted the whale on Monday, and had kept an eye on the animal since then. 

A rescue crew, which dubbed the whale "Barney" because of barnacles on its dorsal fin, had been waiting for calmer weather to try and free it.

By Wednesday evening, a recreational boater who spotted Barney earlier in the week reported seeing the whale free of the tangled fishing gear.

Wayne Ledwell, the director of Whale Release and Strandings, was part of the crew that went out in a Zodiac inflatable boat in Mobile bay, to try and untangle the whale.

Barney had been active throughout the day, moving around and making it difficult for rescuers to keep track of him.

Several other whales were in the area, breaching and flapping fins to keep tour boat operators busy, and making it even harder to follow Barney's movements.

An orange float was attached to the whale to keep track of it. It's not known what exactly the animal was tangled up in, but the tour group suspects lines attached to lobster pots.

The search hit a snag on Wednesday when mechanical troubles temporarily shut down the effort. The rescue resumed Wednesday afternoon.

With files from Peter Cowan

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