Crews work to disentangle a humpback whale from a gillnet Friday. South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell was among a team assembled to locate and free the mammal after it was spotted in a channel near Kitimat.

Crews work to disentangle a humpback whale from a gillnet Friday. South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell was among a team assembled to locate and free the mammal after it was spotted in a channel near Kitimat.

A whale of a rescue tale for South Surrey expert

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell has no doubt a humpback whale tangled in a gillnet would have died had recent rescue efforts failed.

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell has no doubt what would have happened to a humpback whale had a recent effort to untangle it from a gillnet not been successful.

It would have died, the fisheries official said Monday, a day after returning from the rescue.

“This animal would likely definitely have succumbed,” Cottrell said. “The animal had been entangled for quite a while. The lead line was digging right into the flesh. The head was fully engulfed with mesh.

“It’s the worst entangled whale I’ve had to deal with.”

Cottrell, who is regional marine mammal co-ordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, was tasked to an area near Kitimat Friday morning, after whale researchers spotted the distressed 25- to 30-foot juvenile in Ursula Channel, near Gill Island, the day before.

When he arrived, Cottrell learned efforts to track the whale overnight were complicated after the mammal met up with about four other humpbacks. In the dark, it was hard to know which humpback to follow, he said.

Fortunately, he and others who joined the search in the morning were able to locate the whale after about four hours of combing the waters in a grid pattern. Along the way, Cottrell’s team alone encountered 15 other humpbacks, he noted.

The tangled leviathan was found around 2 p.m., and a careful operation to free it got underway. The process – attaching to the line, and slowly moving closer to the whale, cutting the gear off along the way – took about seven hours, Cottrell said. The first step alone took a couple hours.

“We really took our time… moving up the gear and cutting it off over time, and then eventually getting right up close to the whale and then being able to cut (the line) with specialized tools right off the animal.”

Key to the operation’s success was tiring the whale out first, to enable a safe approach, Cottrell said, noting his team was “pretty darn happy” with the outcome.

The operation – the third of its kind for Cottrell – was the second successful whale disentanglement in B.C. waters this month. Another whale was rescued near Tofino about two weeks ago. Cottrell is hopeful a third whale spotted sporadically since July 31 in the southern Georgia Strait with crab line attached to it will soon be located and freed.

He encouraged anyone who spots the whale – or any other distressed, sick, injured or dead marine mammal – to call the 24-hour Marine Mammal Incident Reporting Hotline, at 1-800-465-4336.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Laura Barnes is to feature some of her artwork at Gallery at Central Plaza next month. (Contributed photo)
New artist showcase coming to White Rock gallery

Laura Barnes work, mixing brights and darks, to be displayed in February

White Rock Public Library (File photo)
Surrey, White Rock literacy leaders kick off Family Literacy Week

Literacy events to take place Jan. 24 to 31

Surrey Community Cat Foundation received funding to assist with medical procedures. (File photo)
SurreyCats receives grant to assist with spay/neuter costs

PetSmart Charities of Canada donates $5,000

Beds are set up at the emergency response centre at the North Surrey Recreation Centre. (Contributed file photo)
26 people test positive for COVID-19 at Surrey emergency shelter

Centre located at North Surrey Recreation Centre

Surrey firefighters respond to a townhouse fire Sunday morning. (Shane MacKichan photos)
Firefighters respond to townhouse fire in Surrey

Fire ‘knocked down quickly’: witness

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment Mission, has break-out year

Most Read