Humpback whale PHI (left) is seen in this Sept. 23, 2017 photo alongside Niagara near Campbell River. Photo: Jackie Hildering, Marine Education and Research Society, Marine Mammal License MML-42

Attempts to disentangle humpback off north Vancouver Island fail

PHI, a regularly seen in the Campbelll River area, was last seen heading north from Port Hardy

A Humpback whale often seen near Campbell River may be in distress.

PHI was last seen heading north from Port Hardy on July 25 with a yellow rope through her mouth and over her back.

According to the Port McNeill-based Marine Education and Research Society (MERS), PHI’s entanglement was first observed on July 23 in the Campbell River/Quadra Island area.

A team from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans attempted to untangle the whale on July 23 and 24, but ran out of daylight north of Sayward.

PHI’s entanglement is complicated as there is no rope or net trailing behind her, said Jackie Hildering, Humpback whale researcher.

“The problem with PHI’s entanglement is there is very little dragging behind her,” said Hildering. “It’s virtually impossible to get hold of the gear because there’s so little to attach to.”

Normally, teams are able to attach a tracker to gear trailing from the whale or attach floation to slow them down. But teams following PHI have not had luck so far.

PHI was spotted again on July 25 near Port McNeill. A response team attempted to attach a grapple and tag onto PHI, but again ran out of daylight north of Port Hardy.

She was last seen heading north from there, but MERS said she may return to the Campbell River/Quadra Island/Hornby Island area, where she’s most often seen.

“She bolted,” said Hildering.

PHI was already an adult when she was first documented near Victoria in 2014.

Hildering, who helped nickname PHI – naming her after the markings on her tail which look like the letters P, H and I – said that since 2017 she has been a regular around the Campbell River area.

While PHI is moving well now, MERS is concerned that over time, the entanglement could lead to chafing, infection and may impede her ability to feed or move.

“There’s a perception by people that whales are in immediate risk when they’re entangled,” said Hildering. “Most often it’s the long-term impacts of entanglement; the fact that they can’t move properly, they can’t feed properly.”

Prelimary research from MERS and the Fisheries Department indicates that approximately 50 per cent of the Humpback whales observed in B.C. have evidence of scarring from entanglements.

If you spot PHI or any other entangled whale, MERS is encouraging you to call the Incident Reporting Line at 1-800-465-4336, or report over VHF channel 16 if outside of cell range.

RELATED: Humpback whale safety campaign launched as population booms on B.C. coast

RELATED: Code of conduct will ‘ensure safety’ of whales, say Campbell River whale watching companies

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

 

The Marine Education and Research Society is searching for an entangled Humpback whale nicknamed ‘PHI’. She was last seen heading north from Port Hardy on July 25. Marine Education and Research Society/Facebook

Just Posted

Owner of Langford construction company gets nine months for sexual assault

Kyle Mostowy already spent time in prison for sexually assaulting employees

Victoria Clipper suspends services through April 2021

International travel restrictions, COVID-19 uncertainty lead to decision

Who is the average Sookie?

Statistics Canada, community members offer glimpse into who the people of Sooke are

UPDATED: Power restored to Metchosin, Colwood

Monday morning outage impacts more than 2,600 BC Hydro customers

‘Someone knows something’: a look into Vancouver Island missing persons with interactive map

There are more than three dozen people listed as missing throughout Vancouver Island

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Washington’s NFL team drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years

The franchise was given the name back in 1933, when it was still in Boston

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Most Read