Rescuers attempted to disentangle a right whale this week found off the coast of northern New Brunswick with fishing gear hanging out of its mouth.
The 15-year-old female, known as Snow Cone, was sighted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, about 65 kilometres east of Shippagan, N.B., by a Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) aircraft on Monday, said the department in a news release.
On Tuesday, DFO found the whale about 45 kilometres east of Miscou Island, N.B., and the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, with help from DFO fisheries officers from another vessel, reached the whale around 4 p.m. AT.
Hours later, the team removed some of the rope attached to the animal.
Rescuers will try again to further disentangle the whale. However, doing so depends on a few factors.
“Disentanglements are only attempted if they can be done in a safe manner. Factors considered include the whale’s behaviour, weather, and sea conditions,” said the release, noting the weather over the next few days will not be safe for disentanglement work.
The release says members of the disentanglement team reported the whale appears to be in good health, adding that DFO will continue to track it.
The whale is the same one previously seen entangled in Cape Cod, Mass., in March, according to the release.
At the time, a marine mammal rescue team was able to partially disentangle the whale on March 10 and 12. However, some gear remained on the animal.
The rope that was removed from the whale on Tuesday was turned over to DFO, said the release, adding it appears to be the same gear the whale was entangled in in March.
The gear’s origin is unknown, said the release.
Frequent right whale deaths
There’s been a spike in right whale deaths caused by entanglement or vessel strikes in U.S. and Canadian waters since 2017.
Since that year, 34 dead stranded whales have been discovered, with human interaction being the leading cause, says the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Two right whale deaths have been recorded so far in 2021.