New Brunswick

Humpback whale swims free from fishing weir in Passamaqoddy Bay

A humpback whale trapped in a fishing weir near Hospital Island swam free from it Friday morning. 

Whale swims out during high tide Friday morning

A humpback whale trapped in a weir since Wednesday was able to get out of it during high tide Friday morning. (Submitted by Danielle Deonarine of Quoddy Link Marine)

The humpback whale trapped in a fishing weir in the Passamaqoddy Bay was freed from it Friday morning.

On Thursday, whale watchers spotted a juvenile humpback whale next to the Spectacle Islands between Deer Island and Campobello Island.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, and the local fishing association were notified of the situation and went to work to free the animal.

"There was a bit of work getting some equipment and the manpower to be able to do that," said Lillian Mitchell, executive director of the Fundy North Fishermen's Association and the Fundy Weir Association. "But the weir operator worked with Campobello Whale Rescue, and they were able to come up with a reasonable plan to get that done.

"There was a hole in the back of the weir, and they removed a couple more posts just to make sure it had lots of room to get out when it was ready. That was done yesterday and by the time we all woke up this morning it had left."

Mitchell said the weir wasn't actively being fished at the time the whale swam into it, so the owner wasn't immediately aware there was a whale inside it. She said that once the fisherman realized a whale was in the weir he immediately went to work to free the animal.

"Those posts are quite large, they're like big trees, so those posts needed to be sawed off basically," said Mitchell.

Joanne Carney, co-owner of Jolly Breeze, based in Saint Andrews, said she heard the news over the marine radio from a member of the Campbello Whale Rescue Team. 

The team, along with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, had been monitoring the whale in the weir since Carney reported seeing it there Wednesday. 

"We'd like to thoroughly thank the weir operator who acted very quickly and proactively to remove some of the top poles and create an opening for the whale to be able to escape the weir," said Carney. 

Carney said sometimes it takes a trapped whale a day or so to figure out there is an opening. 

"Sometimes they're a bit confused in there." 

DFO had assessed the condition of the animal on Thursday and said it appeared healthy and had no visible injuries.

Boaters had been asked to give the trapped the whale a berth of 500 metres to allow it escape once given the opportunity.

With files from Shane Fowler