Officials with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are looking into the death of a humpback whale that washed ashore on a remote island just off Vancouver Island’s northwest coast.
“It was really smelly and it was quite decayed,” said Tracy Gosselin, a resident of Kyuquot who posted photos of the dead whale on social media.
“It had like five crab traps wrapped around its tail, I don’t know where it came from or exactly what happened.” she said.
Gosselin’s common-law partner Leo Jack runs a water taxi service, and after a group of kayakers told him about the decomposing whale body on Bunsby Island the two of them headed out to find the carcass.
“When I first saw it I was ‘Whoa, this thing [is] huuuge,'” said Gosselin.
“This is the first one that ever washed up on our shores.”
Gosselin reported the dead whale to DFO. Late last week they dispatched a coast guard vessel to the remote island to gather measurements and samples.
‘It appeared hogtied’
Around 15 to 25 whales a year get caught up in lines like this, said Paul Cottrell, the marine mammal coordinator for DFO. Based on the level of decomposition he estimates this whale died more than a month ago.
“It appeared hogtied,” said Cottrell. “The line ran around the animal, through the mouth, around the tailstock and the pec fin.”
Cottrell says that any vertical line is a potential entanglement hazard for whales, and once a whale is caught on one, it is more likely to get caught on another and another.
Cottrell says his team will now look over the material that was gathered at the site, including the traps and other gear, to determine where it was set and see if they can work backwards to understand how the whale ended up getting caught up.
It may be too late for this whale but Cottrell was adamant that when people see whales in distress they should call DFO’s marine mammal help line at 1-800-465-4336.
“If we know about it as quickly as possible it increases our chances of helping.” said Cottrell.