Severe gash to back of humpback whale in Howe Sound prompts warning to boaters

A severe gash on the back of a humpback in Howe Sound is prompting a warning to boaters to take extra caution when travelling in the presence of whales.

Photos taken this week of the gash at the whale’s dorsal fin suggest it was hit by a boat, Jackie Hildering, education director with the Marine Education and Research Society, said Wednesday.

The whale was first sighted uninjured feeding in the waters of Howe Sound on April 6.

It’s hard to say whether the injury will ultimately kill the whale, she said.

Hildering noted that boaters may be unaware of the increase over the years of humpbacks foraging off the coast and the potential for collisions — a danger to both whales and boaters.

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In 2017, a B.C. man was paralyzed after his guided fishing boat collided with a breaching humpback off Haida Gwaii.

In 2015, an Alberta woman died after a breaching humpback landed on a tour boat near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

“They behave very differently than the killer whales most boaters are used to,” Hildering said. “They are far bigger, highly acrobatic and more unpredictable. They are often travelling in random patterns and can suddenly surface after long dives.”

Too often, collisions wth vessels go unreported and dead whales sink, she said. The current law in Canada prohibits harassment or disturbance of whales, and the recommendation is to keep a minimum 100-metre distance. Planned new federal regulations would require boaters to keep 200 metres away.

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Source:: Vancouver Sun

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