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Report addresses painful whale deaths by entanglement in fishing line and gear


By Patricia Sullivan

Q: How are a dead baby Humpback whale and our fisherman’s platter related? Read on for clues.

In Vancouver, British Columbia a young Humpback whale comes ashore while alive, but dies hours after beaching himself. Necropsy (animal autopsy) results confirm the creature likely died a slow death from starvation after being entangled in fishing gear.

Later, reports from veterinary pathologist Stephen Raverty with the ministry of agriculture's Animal Health Centre indicate ropes had obviously been buried deep in the whale's mouth. Gouges on the whale's body revealed the scars and injuries from the virtually indestructible line that wrapped around the whale, and implied secondary infections from the injuries. The roughly eight-metre-long whale had no diseases or viruses when it beached itself and died on the tidal mud flats of White Rock beach, south of Vancouver on June 12.

Last May, a successful, down-to-the-wire rescue of a juvenile humpback whale entangled in prawn traps in British Columbia’s Knight’s Bay was credited to chance, as fisheries officers happened to be in the area responding to a float-plane incident joined Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada Pacific marine mammal coordinator, who sped to the scene.

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