A few days before a young humpback whale got tangled up in a fishing line and died on White Rock’s beach on June 12, another marine mammal narrowly escaped the same fate.
South Surrey residents Bill and Cheryl Kitching were sailing in the same waters on Saturday, June 9, when they noticed a dolphin had been snagged by a crab trap buoy line.
“We were probably about half a mile west of the pier,” Bill Kitching told Peace Arch News last week after the humpback story broke.
“I saw something black in the water. It looked like it was struggling.”
Kitching, an experienced sailor and 45-year resident of the Semiahmoo Peninsula, thought it might be a mud shark.
When the couple came about for closer look, they realized it was a dolphin, about 4½ feet long, that had become entangled in the buoy line.
“It was clearly exhausted,” Bill Kitching said.
So exhausted that he was able to pull the dolphin’s tail out of the water and uncoil the line with no resistance, he said.
“The rope was wrapped around the dolphin’s tail probably 10 times,” Kitching said.
There were obvious signs of chafing to indicate the dolphin had been trying to get free for some time.
“It could have been there a couple of days,” he said.
Cheryl Kitching said the dolphin seemed to be in a state of shock.
“We were concerned about whether he would survive or not as he seemed very worn out,” she said.
The couple returned to the scene several times in the hours after the release, and each time the dolphin seemed to be getting a little stronger.
Finally it “just kind of floated away,” Bill Kitching said.
The couple high-fived each other.
“We felt good about that,” he said.
The buoy that the dolphin got tangled up in wasn’t properly marked, suggesting it was an illicit trap.
Fisheries and Oceans regulations state all buoys attached to “recreational shellfish traps” must be clearly marked with the operator’s name in printed solid black capital letters at least 75 millimetres high.
If they aren’t, the DFO may remove them from the water.