British Columbia

'Happiest news possible' as humpback in B.C. slips free of fishing gear

The humpback, named KC, was well known to marine researchers because of a previous injury from a boat strike.

Humpback named KC scarred but safe after second injurious encounter with marine equipment

The 15 year-old humpback identified as KC was reported to be trailing a line and float but researchers did not know if it had further entanglement below the water line. (Josh Grin/Eagle Eye Adventures)

A humpback whale that was the subject of a public alert on the weekend has survived his second potentially deadly encounter with marine equipment.

The whale, identified as KC, had been reported to a whale-entanglement hotline with a green line around his head and a black fishing float trailing behind him in the waters around B.C.'s Discovery Islands, near Campbell River. 

Researchers were concerned well-meaning members of the public might endanger themselves or the whale by trying to free it  themselves. 

But somehow the whale freed himself from the fishing gear, Jackie Hildering, a humpback researcher with the Marine Education and Research Society in Port McNeill, told On the Coast guest host Richard Zussman.

Hildering called it  "the happiest news possible."

"He's got scarring in his mouth, he's got scarring on his dorsal fin, but KC the humpback, as we've known him since he was a baby in 2002, is found and free of gear," Hildering said. 

KC has distinctive scars from an earlier collision with a boat. (Steve Emery/Johnstone Strait)

KC was previously struck by a boat in 2013, Hildering said. The distinctive scarring that remained made him easy to identify.

The popularity of whale watching in the area where he was spotted improved the likelihood of sightings, Hidlering said. 

Hotline for entangled whale reports

Hildering encouraged anyone anyone who sees an entangled whale to call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-465-4336 instead of acting alone.

She said people often don't know where to call when they see a whale in distress, which can result in a delayed response.

"We know there are other humpbacks on our coast that have not been as lucky," she said. 

"Our research supports through looking at scarring in fact that the humpbacks that have made a return to our coast, that half of them have scarring showing that they've been previously entangled."

Humpback 'KC' identified by tail fin. Researcher Jackie Hildering said 50 per cent of humpbacks identified off the B.C. coast bear scars from previous entanglement. (Christie McMillan/MERS)

Hildering said some of those entanglements come from humpbacks and humans trying to make a living in the same area.

"Nobody wants a whale to swim through their net or through their prawn or crab traps," she said.

With files from On the Coast