Gray whale tangled in fishing gear off Tofino prompts DFO to search
The survival of a migrating gray whale spotted off Tofino, British Columbia, on Thursday is at stake after photos showed fishing gear wrapped around the mammal’s body.
Footage posted to social media shows a large gray whale entangled in a rope and also dragging a floating buoy.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada was alerted to the problem Thursday afternoon after a group of whale-watching operators spotted and photographed the distressed mammal.
“The problem with towing gear is that they’re probably going to pick up more gear. That’s the problem,” said Paul Cottrell of the Federal Marine Mammal Response Team.
Fishery officers are already looking for the whale and on Friday morning a specialized team trained in disentangling was mobilizing on dry land to go to Tofino.
Cottrell, who leads the team, says he is particularly worried because it appears the fishing gear is wrapped around the whale’s mouth.
He says this could impact the animal’s ability to feed and eat, which is critical as the ocean giant migrates north to Alaskan waters.
Cottrell says it’s unclear what type of fishing gear is impeding the whale’s movements, but admits coastal waters are full of stray gear.
The search is the second of its kind in the past two weeks for the unraveling team.
Last week they rushed to the waters off Prince Rupert, British Columbia, for a report of an entangled gray whale.
He was no longer spotted.
Anyone who sees an entangled or distressed whale is asked to call DFO’s 24-hour Marine Mammal Hotline at 1-800-465-4336.