Nfld. & Labrador·Video

Humpback whale freed from Upper Island Cove fishing gear

There was a happy ending to the story of a whale that became hopelessly entangled in fishing gear off Upper Island Cove.

Humpback freed after it's caught in gear

Here and Now

7 years ago
Submitted by the Whale Release group. Whale Release freed this humpback caught in fishing gear in Upper Island Cove 0:15

There was a happy ending to the story of a humpback whale that became hopelessly entangled in fishing gear off Upper Island Cove.

It has not been a good year for marine mammals in Newfoundland and Labrador waters, with heavy pack ice causing the deaths of dozens of whales and dolphins.

Wayne Ledwell from the province's Whale Release and Strandings group, got a call Sunday from a fisherman who discovered a whale tangled up in his snow-crab gear.

Ledwell, whose group has freed hundreds of whales while preserving the gear they get wrapped up in, went out to take a look Sunday evening.

The three-member team took an inflatable boat to see the 30-to-35 foot humpback tangled up in the crab gear, which was almost a mile long. Ledwell said in most cases, 90 per cent of the gear ends up in the whale's mouth. It rolls and rolls — and won't spit the gear out — until it gets trapped.

Ledwell said in this case they discovered an animal that was heavily entangled.

"We had to deal with a whale that had an enormous amount of rope, and it was all jumbled together. There was so much strain on the animal that we almost couldn't get at its tail, " he said. 

The next day, the team enlisted the help of another fisherman with a longliner who could hook into the gear and raise up the whale's tail so the team could get at it.

"And when they got it up, as you saw in that video, there was a lot of stuff on that whale," he said.

It took a couple of hours to free the whale and return the gear intact to the fisherman. 

Ledwell said most whales when they're finally free: "The animal, he just boots it,"

"Oftentimes towards the end of the entanglement where you first initially thought: 'I'm never going to get this animal out of this gear,' and when it senses, 'I'm going, I'm almost gone now.' And it will almost give you it's tail and say, 'Get that there last bit off of me, I'm out of here,'" Ledwell said.

You can watch the video to see the whale before it was freed.