Vancouver boaters told to exercise caution after injured whale spotted

·2 min read
This humpback whale has an injury suspected to be from a ship strike. The whale has been seen in the waters off Vancouver's Point Grey neighbourhood since early April. (Vanessa Prigollini - image credit)
This humpback whale has an injury suspected to be from a ship strike. The whale has been seen in the waters off Vancouver's Point Grey neighbourhood since early April. (Vanessa Prigollini - image credit)

Whale researchers and conservationists are urging boaters in the waters off Vancouver to slow down and give adequate space to an injured humpback whale that's been seen in the area.

Jessica Scott, a biologist with Ocean Wise Conservation Association, said the whale was spotted three days ago with a deep cut on its tail stock, the muscular part of the tail between the body and the fluke.

She said the injury appears to be a strike wound likely caused by a vessel travelling at relatively low speed.

The conservation group is reminding boaters to slow to below 7 knots when within 1,000 metres of the animal, and to give it a minimum of 100 metres space.

Scott said humpbacks are particularly vulnerable to ship strikes because they exhibit random travel patterns, sometimes remain underwater for more than 15 minutes, and tend to feed at the water's surface.

An injury to the tail stock of a humpback whale seen swimming in the waters off Vancouver's west side is noticeable in recent photographs.
An injury to the tail stock of a humpback whale seen swimming in the waters off Vancouver's west side is noticeable in recent photographs.(Vanessa Prigollini)

She said the injured humpback has been seen in the waters off the Point Grey neighbourhood since early April. On April 11, a crew member from a whale watching vessel photographed the animal with a deep laceration behind its dorsal fin.

Humpbacks are listed as being "of special concern" under Canada's Species at Risk Act, even as they have made a comeback in the past five decades.

Scott said the whale also appears to have scars associated with an entanglement with fishing gear. So far, researchers believe the animal can recover from its injury if people keep their distance.

She pointed out boaters need to keep an eye out for signs of whale presence, such as blows, splashes, or aggregations of birds.

Scott said the Department of Oceans and Fisheries is monitoring the whale but there are no plans to intervene.

She urges people to download the Ocean Wise WhaleReport app to notify the organization of whale sightings, which can then be transmitted to large commercial vessels in the area.