Entanglement in fishing gear is a threat to many of the marine mammal and seabird species off the coast of BC. This threat is becoming increasingly serious for species like Humpback Whales, whose population is expanding off the west coast of Canada. As they return to coastal areas where their population was depleted by commercial whaling, these Humpbacks are experiencing increasing overlap with human activities, including fisheries. Entanglement in fishing gear can lead to injury or death for marine species, and can lead to loss of gear and catch for fishermen.
We have assisted with the rescue of several Humpback Whales since 2009. We also aim to monitor whales during fishing openings, to increase the number of safe and effective responses to entanglements. We have also responded to reports of entangled seals and seabirds.
In collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, we study the scarring on Humpbacks to determine if they have been entangled. Our preliminary results indicate that ~50% of Humpbacks off British Columbia’s coast have scarring resulting from entanglement. This data provides an indication of how very serious the risk of entanglement is. It does not reveal how many Humpbacks have died as a result of entanglement.
Please, if you witness an entanglement or any other incidents of marine mammal disturbance, call 1-800-465-4336.
For further details on what to do, and what not do, in case of entanglement, please see our “How to Save a Whale” resource.
Humpback Whale "Cutter" entangled in fishing gear.
A Harbour Seal fatally entangled in fishing gear.
"Ripple" (BCX1063), an adult female Humpback Whale with scars from a previous entanglement. Note the indentations on the left side of her upper jaw, and on her blowhole.