Joyous humpback whale rescue with the happiest of endings

A well-known humpback whale named "Foggy" was found barely moving and anchored by ropes and fishing gear, some partially obstructing her blow hole.Here at IFAW, we love a happy ending – of course! So, when we received a call from the IFAW-supported Campobello Whale Rescue Team (CWRT) about another successful whale disentanglement, we all whooped with joy.

This past weekend the CWRT received an urgent phone call regarding the sightings of an entangled whale by a Nova Scotia whale watching tour group operating in the Bay of Fundy.

A local favorite and well-known humpback whale named Foggy was found barely moving and anchored by ropes and fishing gear, some partially obstructing her blow hole. More remarkable still was that Foggy had another humpback named Grommet who faithfully stayed by Foggy’s side.

The CWRT quickly assembled the specialized gear and jumped into their zodiac, powered up the twin engines purchased by IFAW, and 43 miles and 90 minutes later they arrived at Foggy and Grommet. Moe Brown, one of the volunteer members of the CWRT was part of the team who disentangled Foggy.

“It was a lazy Sunday, and our team lead Mackie Green had left Campobello for the first time all summer. Of course the lazy Sunday changed in a heartbeat, and we quickly pulled the CWRT volunteer crew together including me, volunteer fisherman Joe Howlett, and Jerry Conway. When we reached Foggy, she was barely moving. The weight of the gear was too much for her, and she just floated there breathing heavily,” Moe explains.

 

Entangled whales are often very difficult to handle, since they’re already agitated by the gear and a small boat only serves to increase their anxiety.

“We were a little concerned at first that Grommet would get in the way of our disentanglement efforts and try to defend Foggy,” says Moe, “but remarkably both whales seemed to understand we were there to help. As soon as our boat pulled up, Grommet laid on her side, and flipper slapped!

 

The disentanglement of Foggy was a fairly difficult one. She had lobster traps below her, five stands of rope over her head, and one rope around her peduncle (the narrow part just before the tail).

“It took us about an hour of cutting and manoeuvering to free Foggy from the gear. Once we were finished Grommet breached out of the water, just as we let out a collective cheer for a successful rescue. It was truly breathtaking.”

 

Since 2004, IFAW has supported the rescue efforts of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team. IFAW contributes to rescue gear, tools, maintenance of equipment and operating costs for the team to do this vital work. The team receives alerts about entangled whales via a hotline – 1-866-567-6277  – that anyone who sees an entangled whale can call for help.

Note: The CWRT vessel is on loan from Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Thanks also go to Pirates Cove Whale Watch for reporting and standing by and the crew of the R/V Shearwater out of the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies for standing by and assistance.

--JH

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