Nfld. & Labrador·Video

Whale caught in capelin gear freed in Northern Bay

In the area of Ochre Pit Cove and Northern Bay there are a lot of whales and a lot of capelin. And sometimes the two just don't go together.
A large humpback whale was freed from capelin gear this week in Northern Bay by the Whale Release and Strandings group.

In the area of Ochre Pit Cove and Northern Bay there are a lot of whales and a lot of capelin. And sometimes the two just don't go together. 

Wayne Ledwell, a rescuer with the Whale Release and Strandings group, told CBC Radio's The Broadcast about his recent experience freeing a large humpback whale from capelin gear.

He said the whale was close to land for feeding and was caught in quite a bit of net from its mouth to its fin.

It seemed to be distressed and uncomfortable because it was violently thrashing water with its tail.

The rescue crew donned masks and snorkels to look under their boat and into the water to see where the whale was constrained. 

Ledwell said it's important to be very careful in these situations. 

"You don't want to let an animal go with a pile of gear on him by cutting the wrong piece of rope," he said.

"Just as we touched the rope and then did manage to cut it he just went ballistic again and started violently thrashing his tail."

Ledwell estimated the whale to be about 40 feet long and 35 tonnes.

He said situations like this should only be handled by experienced people with the right tools, like those with the Whale Release and Strandings group.

"You don't want to be around those [whales] if you don't have the right tools and the right experience to try and get them out," he said.

Ledwell said anytime a whale is in distress and caught in netting it's important to call them, and warned people on the water to be safe.

There are a lot of whales in local waters and if they get hit by a boat their reaction is to thrash their tails.

"And it can either beat your boat up or tip your boat over. So people need to be really careful in the summertime when there's whales around when they're driving around in fast speedboats ... take it easy and just be observant of what's around them," he said.

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