A thirty-foot humpback whale was disentangled from fishing gear on July 21, 2005, inside of the Mingan Islands, Gulf of St. Lawrence. The operation involved staff from the Mingan Islands Cetacean Study (MICS) and officers of Parcs Canada. Both groups had gone through disentanglement training with PCCS last summer. The whale had rope through the mouth that connected to wraps at the tail. While the whale was not anchored to the spot, its movements were restricted by the entanglement.
The original report came from kayakers and, following their description, MICS and Parcs Canada planned for a stranding of a minke whale. On scene the team quickly realized that the report had been misleading. Parcs Canada set up a safety zone around the animal to keep recreational boaters at a distance then began an assessment of the entanglement.
The team found that the entanglement was life threatening and worked out a plan for the disentanglement. They used a grapple to attach a work line to the rope running from the mouth to the tail. Using the work line the team pulled their vessel to within reach of the whale. Pole-mounted knives were used to make a series of cuts to the rope at the mouth and tail. The animal was left with a short, clean length of rope in the mouth that should fall away when feeding resumes. After disentanglement the whale spent some time at the surface before moving off.
Relatively little is known about the extent of the entanglement problem within the Gulf of St. Lawrence but reports of entanglement have been recorded throughout the region. In response to this, a large whale disentanglement workshop was held at the MICS field office in 2004 at Longue Pointe de Mingan, Quebec. Eleven people participated in field and classroom sessions that were intended to introduce techniques used by the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network (ALDWN). The size of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the diversity of cetaceans found there and the small but growing number of entanglement reports (including right whales), has prompted Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Parcs Canada and local research houses to initiate planning for a network of disentanglement responders. Three sets of specialized disentanglement equipment were obtained from PCCS by MICS in 2003 and 2004. Training and equipment were also supported by NOAA Fisheries and International Fund for Animal Welfare.
click here to read about previous entanglements