Disentanglement of a Humpback Whale near Anticosti Island
On July 18, 2001 local scallop fishermen, aboard the "Grand Makashti" working along the north coast of Anticosti Island, called the research station in mid afternoon. They reported having approached a humpback whale that was entangled in fishing gear. The humpback whale was bridled through the mouth by one line, had two large buoys - typically used as floats by fishermen - attached near the blow holes, and several other lines trailed behind, including one to about 90m astern. The whale's ability to dive was impeded by the floats and the line wrapped tightly around its head tightened noticeably each time it the whale breathed. The rope caught in its mouth was most likely affecting its ability to feed, causing it further stress.
Freeing a large whale from fishing gear at sea remains a delicate and dangerous endeavor. The crew of the "Grand Makashti" had no such experience and performed a remarkable piece of work. We applaud and thank the crew for their selfless effort in freeing this humpback, which most likely would have died from its unfortunate encounter with fishing gear.
In September we learned that this humpback whale had become entangled about 8km north of the Gaspé coast the day before the "Grand Makashti" spotted it along Anticosti Island. The fishing gear was determined to be a commonly used bottom fixed long-line about 200m long.