LETTRE/CAMPOBELLO WHALE RESCUE TEAM
Members of the
Campobello Whale Rescue Team free an endangered whale during a rescue effort
earlier this week.
effort saves Right Whale
CAMPOBELLO - A
female endangered right whale is swimming a little more comfortably now that a
group of Campobello fishermen have cut her free of a fishing rope that was
wrapped around her belly.
She was spotted off the coast
of Campobello on Tuesday morning with fishing rope wrapped through her mouth,
over her fin and twice around her body. The rope was threatening her life.
The whale, one of less than 350 of her kind, is one of
few known female breeders. She has given birth to two calves.
As soon as the call came in, the three fishermen and
members of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team left their base where they were
having their annual meeting with the International Fund for Animal Welfare
Canada, who funds the group, and sped off on a small zodiac to save the whale.
Mackie Greene, captain of the team, said the team quickly
got right beside the whale and cut one of the ropes wrapped around its body
with a long pole.
"Right whales are the worse to
untangle, they are stubborn, bullish almost," said Greene.
Once the first cut was made, the team sat on the zodiac
in the middle of over 60 right whales playing and swimming beside them, under
them and all around them and waited to spot the tangled up whale and make a
quick move to get close.
They waited for over six hours
with no more luck.
Barb Cartwright, with the IFAW, was on
a boat nearby watching the excitement and said she was shocked how quickly and
precisely the men cut the rope.
It made the funding the
group gives seem all the more worth it.
"It happened so
fast and over the water we could hear Joe ( Howlett) scream `we got it, we got
it,' and then'l was born to do this, 'said Cartwright."It was exciting to see
the elation from the team and to see her dive down knowing she wac more
comfortable and closer to freedom."
Greene said the cut
they made will help free the whale some but he is still waiting for another
spotting so the team can go out again and get the job done. The ropes are still
binding the whale through the mouth, once around the body and around the tail.
Right whales, he said, can live for years entangled in
fishing gear. This whale was first spotted all tangled up in March of 2007 in
Cape Cod. While the ropes may not cause immediate death, he said they tighten,
chafe, cut into skin and bone, which can cause infection and kill the whales.
There is no indication where the fishing gear came from
or how the whale got caught up in it.
The rescue was the
first of the whale season in the Bay of Fundy which begins around late June and
ends in late November or early December.
whale rescue is exhila rating and dangerous, at the time he is only thinking
about getting the whale free but afterwards he said it is shocking to think of
what just happened.
"You feel good at the end of the day
because there is no one out there that likes to see an animal suffer. It is a
service for fishermen. They get painted as bad guys and there is not a
fishermen that wants a whale caught in their gear," said Greene."As fishermen,
we look at it differently then environmentalists. We feel as strongly about
fishermen as we do about whales. If we can successfully untangle them then
fishermen don't have to worry and if one does get tangled, we are able so solve
Greene, who was an initial member of the
team when it started in 2002, said as fishermen and owners or operators of
whale watching tours, the team is made up of the best men for the job. They
know everything about fishing gear, rope and knots and also a lot about the
behaviour of right whales.
Since 2002 the team has helped
untangle 14 whales, including six right whales.
Cartwright never imagined she would be there when the
team got a call, but said it was like winning the lottery to be there for that
"They are the most endangered large whale in the
world and people don't realize how fortunate we are to have them in the Bay of
Fundy," said Cartwright. "You could hear them breathing, we were surrounded,
the bay was so calm and they would blow out their air so you would hear pffftt
and sometimes you could see them and sometimes you couldn't but it's amazing to
how they were there. It was beautiful:'
the right whale is on the Canadian Species at Risk Act and she is waiting for
the government to move forward and make the moves to protect them.
She said the whales need to have a protected habitat
which means keeping the area they are in away from danger. The government has
already moved the shipping lane away from the whales but more needs to be done
to warn pleasure-boaters and fishermen of the danger in striking a whale and
how to avoid the situation.
"Entanglement in fishing gear
needs to be mitigated up front and the rescue team needs to be supported so
they can go out there and do deal with more entanglements," she said.