Search for entangled right whale could be called off after Monday | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Search for entangled right whale could be called off after Monday

A North Atlantic right whale appears at the surface of Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass., on March 28, 2018. There is still no sign of an entangled North Atlantic right whale spotted last week in the Bay of Fundy as the Campobello Whale Rescue Team remains on standby hoping for good news.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Michael Dwyer
August 06, 2018 - 6:00 AM

GRAND MANAN, N.B. - There is still no sign of an entangled North Atlantic right whale spotted last week in the Bay of Fundy, as the Campobello Whale Rescue Team remains on standby hoping for good news.

Jerry Conway with the rescue team said the search is an expensive operation and it might be called off if nothing is found Monday, which marks a week since the endangered mammal was spotted.

"I have a strong affinity for these whales," Conway, a former submariner, said in a phone interview Sunday. "I'd like to see the search continue for as long as possible."

The whale, identified as an adult male, was seen Monday morning about 22 nautical miles east of Grand Manan, N.B., with an orange buoy trailing behind it.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans sent out an aircraft to survey the Bay of Fundy on Sunday, and Conway said commercial fishermen in the area and even people on the shorelines have been keeping a watchful eye out.

Conway said he hopes the whale will be found and disentangled Monday because entanglements can ultimately lead to the creature's demise, as they can prevent whales from feeding and swimming.

"They're an endangered species, and every one of them counts," he said, noting the missing whale is at the right age to mate and reproduce.

 

"We would be very interested in seeing it survive."

The weeklong search for the whale was halted briefly on Tuesday due to heavy fog, but searchers resumed the hunt the next day.

If the whale is found, a team will be dispatched to rescue it. During such a rescue, the crew would head out in a boat and try to cut the animal free using either an instrument that looks like a knife at the end of a pole, or a weighted rope with knives.

Freeing a whale from fishing lines can be very dangerous, Conway said.

The death of Joe Howlett, a lobster fisherman and a member of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, highlighted the dangerous nature of whale disentanglements.

Howlett was killed a year ago in waters off eastern New Brunswick when he was struck by a whale just after freeing it from fishing gear. His death prompted a temporary ban on volunteer whale rescue efforts that was lifted in March.

Conway said the six remaining members of the whale rescue team are all trained commercial fishermen with plenty of experience out on the water.

Despite the dangers, Conway said disentangling the creatures is an important step in protecting the endangered right whale population.

The whale rescue team team recently freed a humpback calf from a mess of fishing line in the Bay of Fundy just off of Brier Island, N.S. — their first disentanglement operation since Howlett's death.

There are believed to be fewer than 450 of right whales remaining and, of those, only about 100 breeding females.

There were 18 recorded North Atlantic right whale deaths in Canadian and U.S. waters last year — most of them in the Gulf of St. Lawrence — mainly due to collisions with ships or entanglements in fishing gear.

— By Alex Cooke in Halifax

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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