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

Corey Harkness, who is free on bail, is slated to make his first appearance in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on Dec. 14, 2020. A trial date has not yet been set. (COREY HARKNESS/FACEBOOK)
Accused in Cache Creek homicide will stand trial

Corey Harkness, 33, is charged with second-degree murder

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 70 new cases overnight

The total number of cases in the region is now at 1,426

The TNRD will no longer be offering free disposal days at its 29 solid waste facilities throughout the region. (Photo credit: TNRD)
TNRD votes to end free disposal days at solid waste facilities

Mattresses and tires on rims to be added to items that can be brought in at no charge year-round

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation near Anahim Lake in the Chilcotin since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Graham West photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Most Read