Endangered right whale saved while rescuers track humpback

Another whale has been rescued off the coast of Nova Scotia, in a year where there has been an "unusual" number of whales entangled in gear.

North Atlantic right whale named White Cloud rescued off Ingonish

N.S. crews untangle a right whale from fishing gear. Video from Everett Sacrey/MARS 0:44

Another whale has been rescued off the coast of Nova Scotia, in a year where there has been an "unusual" number of whales entangled in gear.

This time it was an endangered North Atlantic right whale named White Cloud.

"It's definitely been an unusual year, especially for the entanglements," said Andrew Reid, response co-ordinator with the Marine Animal Response Society.

"We don't typically get that many reports but we've had quite a few in the last few weeks, so this has been a bit of an atypical year," he said.

A group made up of Reid and his team, Tangly Whales, a Newfoundland-based rescue team and Fisheries and Oceans Canada found White Cloud as they tracked another whale in distress.

Last Thursday, a humpback caught in some gear was spotted off Ingonish, said Reid. Officials with Fisheries and Oceans Canada attached a satellite tag to the gear stuck on the humpback whale to track the animal.

'Much more severe entanglement'

The three groups were tracking the humpback, which was moving far east, when they came across White Cloud.

"I don't know what the chances of that are, but we came across an entangled North Atlantic right whale and at that point, that took priority. It was a much more severe entanglement," said Reid, adding that the gear was cutting into the animal's flesh.

"Where this is a highly endangered species with only 500 individuals left we definitely had to stop and try and free this animal."

After about an hour, the team were able to cut the gear off, said Reid. They sent pictures of it to Dr. Moira Brown at the New England Aquarium.

"She was able to identify this right whale as a male that was born in 2001 and its name is White Cloud," he said.

Unfortunately, the humpback whale moved so far off the coast of Ingonish that the team couldn't disentangle it. It's now about 200 kilometres offshore, said Reid.

Brier Island whale still entangled

A third whale, a humpback near Brier Island, has evaded those trying to help it for more than a week.

A Nova Scotia whale watching crew and a rescue team tried to free an entangled humpback whale in the Bay of Fundy off the coast of Brier Island on July 9. (Submitted by Max Gagnon)

New Brunswick's Campobello Whale Rescue Team has been out twice and have spent hours with the animal trying to free it, said Reid.

"My understanding is that the way the gear is wrapped around the animal and the animal itself is being evasive," he said. "Just makes it a very difficult case to disentangle."

It was spotted again on Sunday, but the fog was so thick the team wasn't able to respond, Reid said.

Problems saving whales in certain areas

Reid said his organization is learning how to save entangled whales, and is lucky to have help with rescues from Campobello and Tangly Whales.

When whales are entangled off the coasts of P.E.I. and Cape Breton, it's hard to get a team to the animals quickly because it takes time for the Campobello team to travel from New Brunswick.

"The delay in travel time is too large," Reid said.


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