New Brunswick

Humpback whale trapped in fishing weir off Hospital Island

A young humpback whale has become trapped in a fishing weir off the coast of Hospital Island.

DFO says whale appears to be healthy and may be able to swim away at high tide

A humpback whale has been ensnared in a fishing weir near Campobello Island. (Joanne Carney/Jolly Breeze Whale Watching)

A young humpback whale is trapped in a fishing weir off Hospital Island near Saint Andrews.

According to one whale-watching company, the mammal has been stuck in the weir for at least 24 hours.

"The whale has probably been in there since low tide yesterday, which was about 6 a.m.," said Joanne Carney, co-owner of Jolly Breeze, based in Saint Andrews. 

Carney managed to grab a brief video of the animal circling the weir before alerting the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  

"We don't want to approach the weir because we don't want to distress the whale," she said. "We were just monitoring last night to see how the whale was doing and make sure it was still alive."  

A young humpback whale has been trapped in a fishing weir off the coast of Campobello Island for more than 24 hours, according to spectators. 0:14

In shallow water

She said whale watchers have not been able to identify the whale, which could have a number or name, attached to it by scientists or other observers.

"We only know that it's a humpback. We haven't been able to ID it because the water is very shallow there, so we can't flip his tail up and that's how you would ID a humpback whale." 

The trapped animal was also seen by passengers on other whale-watching tours hoping to spot whales breaching in the Bay of Fundy.

"We were out with our passengers on a whale watch and we came across it in a weir," said Lisa Eldridge of Quoddy Link Marine also based in Saint Andrews. "We did contact the Campobello Whale Rescue Team." 

"It's not often this happens," Eldridge said. "But the chances of him getting out on his own [are] not great."  

In the past, she said, officials have sometimes tried to lower the nets on a weir at high tide, with the hope an animal would make its way over and out of the enclosure. 

Rescue efforts

A spokesperson for DFO said later that the department is working with the owner of the weir and the Campobello rescue team to free the whale, which appears to be in good shape.

"They have assessed the condition of the animal," DFO said in an email to CBC News. "It appears to be healthy with no visible injuries.

"Therefore, we feel the whale will be capable of swimming away from the weir when the tide increases, due to the now increased opening."

DFO said conservation and protection staff are requesting that boaters give the trapped animal a berth of 500 metres to allow for the animal to escape once given the opportunity.

Previous deaths

Carney said that in years past, whales were left in weirs, despite concerns from locals.

"Unfortunately, the weirs are private property, so it is up to the fishermen what ultimately happens with that weir," she said.

"A few years ago, there was a minke whale that was trapped in a weir for six days," said Carney. "And it finally died on the sixth day. So, we're trying to prevent that situation from happening again."

Corrections

  • The location of the weir where the humpback whale is trapped is near Hospital Island and not the location previously reported.
    Aug 28, 2020 9:13 AM AT

About the Author

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.

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