British Columbia

Humpback whale freed off Vancouver Island after being pinned down by discarded fishing gear

Fisheries and Oceans Canada successfully disentangled a humpback whale pinned to the ocean floor by a mass of discarded fishing gear.

30-tonne whale was anchored to ocean floor and couldn't surface to breathe

The whale was barely able to move and desperately struggling to pull itself to the surface to breathe. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada successfully disentangled a humpback whale pinned to the ocean floor by a mass of discarded fishing gear.

The whale was trapped for hours near Nanaimo on Thursday, anchored by 50 traps, 3,000 feet of rope, two floats and two anchors.

Paul Cottrell, who works with Fisheries and Oceans, said the situation was dire, with the whale barely able to move and desperately struggling to pull itself to the surface to breathe.

Cottrell said the whale was 35 to 40 feet in length, and estimated to weigh around 30 tonnes, making the rescue, which took hours, a dangerous process.

A team of Fisheries and Oceans experts eventually managed to remove the gear, with the help of some locals, including commercial fisherman and the Entrance Island lighthouse keeper.

Cottrell said the whale ended up with some injuries but is expected to make a full recovery.

The whale was 35 to 40 feet in length and estimated to weigh around 30 tonnes which made the rescue a dangerous process. (CHEK News)

He said that while this was the first whale his team located this year, he expects to see more as whales return to the B.C. coast.

"These animals travel huge distances. So we're likely to have entangled whales in the near future, but hopefully in the end, we can come up with these technologies that make it very rare," he said.

He said his team has pulled gear off of whales that appeared to originate from around the world, sometimes as far as Asia.

"Any vertical line, horizontal line that's roped in the water is a potential entanglement concern," he said.

According to the Marine Education and Research Society, about 50 per cent of humpbacks in the province have been entangled at some point,  but it's not known how many of those have died as a result.

People are urged to contact Fisheries officials immediately if they see any entangled animals in the water.

With files from CHEK News

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