Fourth humpback whale found dead off B.C. coast in one week
Friday, August 14, 2015, 3:29 PM - Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) are investigating the recent death of a humpback whale in the northern coast of B.C. as it is the fourth to wash up dead in one week.
The most recent, a 10-metre-long humpback, was found near Klemtu, B.C. with several cuts and a large gash above its tail, which may indicate it perished after getting tangled in rope. However, this has yet to be confirmed.
Marine experts performed a necropsy, otherwise known as an animal autopsy, on the whale as well as another smaller humpback found near Haida Gwaii on Tuesday. While the animal didn't show signs of entanglement, it had some of its baleen, a filter-feeder system inside the mouth, removed.
It could take weeks to determine the cause of death, marine mammal coordinator Paul Cottrell told CTV.
Another two were reported to have been seen floating in Hecate Strait and off the west coast of Vancouver Island, according to CTV.
"It's something we are concerned about. We're hoping we don't get any more."
Heart-wrenching photos of the lifeless whale in Klemtu, B.C. was posted by Philip Charles, a guide with Spirit Bear Adventures on Facebook.
"Here on the B.C. coast we are truly blessed to spend so much intimate time with these magnificent and globally iconic creatures, humpback whales, experiences for which we are all truly thankful," Charles posted. "It is exceptionally rare to see a dead humpback whale, especially in this relatively intact state."
Charles told CTV he is concerned that entanglements with commercial fishing gear may have played a role in the whale's death.
"This happens in areas with high humpback activity. Most of the time it's pretty preventable if people take a bit more caution and care."
The Globe and Mail reports this summer has seen a record number of whale entanglements in fishing gear. Four of six whales entangled in the last month were rescued.
In addition, the carcasses of 21 fin and humpback whales have been found dead in southeast Alaska.
Humpbacks can grow up to 16 metres in length and can weigh up to 40 tonnes. The species was faced with the threat of extinction in the 1960s after commercial harvesting drastically declined the whale population to 1,500. However, humpbacks have made a exceptional comeback to about 21,000, 2,100 of which are living among B.C.'s waters, reports The Globe and Mail. Humpbacks are no longer listed as "threatened," but are a "special concern" on Canada's list of species at risk.
Considering these whales prefer using nearshore waters, there is a greater chance they will wash ashore when they die and will be seen by people, Andrew Trites, a whale expert with the University of B.C. told The Globe and Mail.
"We are seeing, literally, humpback whales recolonizing the entire coastline, which means that there will be more interactions both positive and negative with them."
Related video: Humpback surprises boaters off B.C. coast