HALIFAX: Authorities are satisfied that the humpback whales spotted recently near the Canso Causeway are not in distress.
The Marine Animal Response Society (MARS) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) responded this week to reports of whales swimming in an unusual manner. Residents noticed that the whales were not lifting their tails out of the water and were concerned that the animals may be dragging some type of debris or fishing equipment.
“We did receive a couple of calls,” said Andrew Reid, response coordinator for MARS. “We coordinated with DFO. They sent a boat with conservation protection officers to take a look and assess the whales.”
Krista Petersen, communications advisor with Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said late Saturday DFO received a report of a Humpback whale swimming on the north side of the Canso Causeway and possibly trailing some fishing gear. She said DFO fishery officers went to the Causeway and observed two Humpback whales swimming in the area. The DFO consulted representatives of MARS, Petersen noted, and it was determined neither whale was entangled nor trailing any fishing gear.
Reid told The Reporter that after observing the whales, the protection officers believed the animals’ behaviour was normal. He said that recent sightings of dolphins indicate the presence of fish that may be attracting whales to the area to feed. He also noted that it is common to see humpbacks feeding in the area at this time of year.
“I think people there were concerned because they weren’t seeing the whales lift their tail fluke when they were diving, and there was one that appeared to just be laying at the surface, but that can be due to a number of reasons. When whales are resting… they just lay there at the surface of the water, and there are times when they just don’t lift their tail fluke when they’re not doing a deep dive,” said Reid.
He said that officials are satisfied that the animals are not in immediate danger and MARS will not be launching any further response. However, Reid said that he has received reports over the past week of boats “aggressively” pursuing dolphins near the Canso Causeway.
“People have to keep a respectful distance from these animals and not pursue them as they are trying to feed,” Reid explained.
Petersen said fishery officers will monitor the situation to ensure the safety of the animals.
“We want to remind people it is illegal to harass or disturb marine mammals, which includes approaching one without proper authorization,” Petersen wrote in an e-mail. “Do not approach or position a vessel closer than 100 metres to any whale.”
To help DFO track the movement of marine mammals, pictures or video can be sent to: whalesighting@DFO-MPO.GC.CA or via Twitter @DFO_Gulf.
“If you see an injured, entangled or stranded marine mammal, contact the Marine Animal Response Society at 1-866-567-6277,” Petersen added.