Leo Jack stands next to a humpback whale carcass that was found on a remote beach north of Kyuquot on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. It was photographed on April 2, 2020. Image courtesy of Tracey Gosselin

Leo Jack stands next to a humpback whale carcass that was found on a remote beach north of Kyuquot on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. It was photographed on April 2, 2020. Image courtesy of Tracey Gosselin

Entangled humpback whale found dead on remote Vancouver Island beach

WARNING: Story contains graphic images

Researchers are hoping the carcass of an entangled juvenile humpback whale that washed ashore will hold clues to its death and insight into preventing further entanglements.

The whale was found already deceased on a secluded beach north of Kyuquot, a remote First Nation community on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island.

The first known pictures of the whale show a yellowing carcass with crab traps looped around its pectoral fin, through its mouth, and around its tail.

The whale didn’t have a kind death, says humpback whale researcher Jackie Hildering.

“I think it really speaks to people about how excruciating that death would’ve been,” she says.

Hildering, who conducts research with Marine Education and Research Society (MERS), says the whale’s situation is unique. Dead whales usually sink. It’s not often they wash up on shore, let alone tangled in fishing gear.

MERS’ research focuses primarily on humpback and minke whales. The society also promotes education and outreach around whales and other marine mammals. According to MERS, current threats to humpback whales include prey shortage, vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglements.

“I don’t think people realize that. They think well, if entanglement was really such a problem – and collision for that matter – well, we’d have dead whale bodies all over the place,” she says. “But no, dead whales most often sink. So our research has been to look at the survivors and evidence of scarring.”

Preliminary research from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and MERS suggests that 50 per cent of the humpbacks living off B.C.’s coast have evidence of scarring from entanglements.

“This is a rarity that a whale actually washes up to tell the story of entanglement,” says Hildering. “Most often, dead whales sink.”

“The humpbacks have really changed things since they’ve come back in the numbers that they have and they can be oblivious of boats, let alone fishing gear.”

Hildering didn’t know the whale had washed onto the beach until she was alerted to a Facebook post with pictures from April 2 showing a badly decomposed whale.

The pictures belong to Tracey Gosselin, whose husband Leo Jack runs Voyageur Water Taxi in Kyuquot. Jack helps with sea kayak trip logistics and had picked up a pair of kayakers about a month ago who told him about the whale.

Jack and Gosselin decided to go check out the area, which was an about 40 km boat trip away.

She says the whale was “very swollen and decayed” when they spotted it. She saw about five traps entangled on the whale and a rope wrapped around its tail. Gosselin took pictures of the “devastating situation” and posted them on her Facebook page. In the pictures, the whale can be seen laying on its back, tail close to the water. A pile of traps sits next to one of its wing-like pectoral fins.

This gear could hold important clues as to not just where and when the whale became entangled, but could also help further humpback entanglement research.

“Every time you can get those clues with netting or traps, there’s a better understanding of how the entanglement took place,” says Hildering. “They offer clues where these poor victims can potentially reduce the risk for other whales.

“And of course, whoever’s gear this is, nobody wants to lose their fishing gear, nor do they want to kill a whale. It’s a reality that we need to share the oceans with whales.”

In an April 9 emailed statement, a spokesperson for DFO, which coordinates marine mammal rescues, said a Coast Guard vessel was on its way to check out the whale. A DFO team would take measurements and pictures of the animal and gear. Information on where and when the whale was entangled would be collected from a chip in the buoy.

RELATED: Humpback whale safety campaign launched as population booms on B.C. coast

If there were earlier images of the whale, researchers may have been able to identify the individual. However at the state it was photographed in, its identity is likely to remain a mystery. Hildering estimates that based off of Gosselin’s images, the whale had been dead for months.

DFO says it will work with any local First Nation communities interested in harvesting baleen or bones for social or ceremonial use.

Had the whale washed up on a beach in a more populated or more easily accessible area, its skeleton may have been used for educational purposes.

An entangled humpback that washed ashore on a White Rock beach in 2012 now hangs at the Whale Interpretive Centre in Telegraph Cove.

RELATED: Distressed humpback whale returns to familiar waters

There’s many ways people can help whales and that includes knowing what to do if you find one dead or in distress.

Hildering says there’s a “romanticized notion” of someone thinking they can save a whale on their own. In reality, you’re not only putting yourself at risk, but also the whale.

“So often what you’re doing is removing the evidence at the surface that the whale is entangled and the ability to go in and disentangle it,” says Hildering.

Instead of trying to tackle disentangling a whale yourself, report it. If you can, stay with it, but at a safe distance. At a minimum, if you can, take pictures and note the location. The hotline is 1-800-465-4336.

More information on what to do if you find a whale in distress can be found here.


@marissatiel
marissa.tiel@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

This humpback whale carcass was found on a remote beach north of Kyuquot on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. It was photographed on April 2, 2020. Image courtesy of Tracey Gosselin

This humpback whale carcass was found on a remote beach north of Kyuquot on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. It was photographed on April 2, 2020. Image courtesy of Tracey Gosselin

This humpback whale carcass was found on a remote beach north of Kyuquot on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. It was photographed on April 2, 2020. The whale appears to be severely tangled in crab traps. Image courtesy of Tracey Gosselin

This humpback whale carcass was found on a remote beach north of Kyuquot on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. It was photographed on April 2, 2020. The whale appears to be severely tangled in crab traps. Image courtesy of Tracey Gosselin

This humpback whale carcass was found on a remote beach north of Kyuquot on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. It was photographed on April 2, 2020. Image courtesy of Tracey Gosselin

This humpback whale carcass was found on a remote beach north of Kyuquot on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. It was photographed on April 2, 2020. Image courtesy of Tracey Gosselin

This humpback whale carcass was found on a remote beach north of Kyuquot on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. It was photographed on April 2, 2020. Image courtesy of Tracey Gosselin

This humpback whale carcass was found on a remote beach north of Kyuquot on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. It was photographed on April 2, 2020. Image courtesy of Tracey Gosselin

Just Posted

Two people were in a vehicle that rolled over on Highway No. 1 near Lickman Road. They are now out of the vehicle. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vehicle rolls over on Highway 1 near Lickman Road in Chilliwack

Two people in SUV at time of collision in westbound lanes

The Oxford Senior Care private care home in Abbotsford is part of a COVID-19 contact-tracing pilot project through the company Vantage. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford care home participates in COVID-19 contact-tracing pilot project

The Oxford Senior Care uses ‘wearables’ to track movements of staff and residents

The Abbotsford board of education said on Tuesday they are satisfied with how students and staff dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic from September to December.
Abbotsford board of education pleased with return to class during COVID-19

District officials thank staff and students for low number of infections and issues during pandemic

The Abbotsford News is looking forward to hearing the stories of some of Abbotsford’s unsung education heroes. (Getty Image)
Who are your Abbotsford education heroes?

We’re looking for stories of people who have gone above and beyond for students

The route of the pink parade. The Record has blackened out the name of the teen. Facebook photo.
Pink-vehicle parade to be held Sunday in support of transgender teen assaulted in Mission

Teen and family to watch parade drive single file along waterfront at 3 p.m., Jan. 17

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. finds its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

The Fraser Valley Regional Library board of directors recently finalized its budget. (Black Press Media files)
Fraser Valley Regional Library budget not enough to keep up with booming population

Almost $5 million of books, DVDs, and ebooks to be purchased in 2021

A northern resident killer whale shows injuries sustained by a collision with a vessel in B.C. waters. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Coast Guard ramps up protections for B.C. whales

First-ever Marine Mammal Desk will enhance cetacean reporting and enforcement

Two toucans sit on tree at an unidentified zoo. (Pixabay.com)
BC SPCA calls for ban on exotic animal trade after 50 parrots, toucans pass through YVR

One toucan was found dead and several others were without food

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Most Read