Humpback entanglement is something every population is affected by and today we met an entanglement survivor. Our first sighting of this special whale was a strange orange shape surfacing just up ahead, slowing we knew something looked wrong. The orange shape changed direction and we watched as we recognised the shadow of a young Humpback Whale who began to swim directly towards us. Surfacing only a few meters away we could see that this Humpback was not in a good way, his body was covered in whale lice which was why he had an orange appearance due to the thousands of individuals on his body. Very tentatively lifting his fluke, we could see why the infestation of whale lice was so bad, this was a Humpback entanglement survivor. The damage around his peduncle and fluke was significant and we could clearly see where the rope had dug in and caused these painful injuries. He must have dragged the gear a very long way and the injuries and scarring was consistent with dragging cray pot gear.
An exhausted whale, he surprised us by not leaving our side and seemed to be looking for a sound footprint to hide in as he began to sleep. Drifting together, we listened to each breath and watched as he hung peacefully still, very sore but taking the opportunity to rest. An incredible trust as our whales never cease to amaze us in their behaviour when in times of need and this young whale wanted a companion to rest with. Staying close to us meant that everyone else around could only hear our vessel and not any sound this sleeping Humpback Whale may make. He came in so very close and hardly moved at all, we could see the many scars from having been entangled for a while and also the outline of a shark bite as a pesky shark has tried to bite this whale and thankfully he managed to evade him before too much damage could be done.
Our morning was also filled with a very playful Southern Right Whale socialising with the Bottlenose Dolphins as he twisted and turned.. Happy with his new mates and absolutely loving the interaction, he seemed almost oblivious to the Humpback mother and calf swimming past… and the escort Humpback pod as well! Completely distracted in all the fun but thankfully we were enjoying watching all three different cetacean species making the most of the peaceful conditions in Flinders Bay, even if our Southern Right didn’t take too much notice of the special occasion!
The afternoon was just as peaceful and we watched on as Humpbacks pec and fluke slapped up ahead in communication towards an approaching pod. A large, pregnant female Southern Right also calmly rested in the shallows as she curiously looked over to us. Looking around the bay we came across some free floating rope and small float on the surface, after this mornings encounter we made sure to collect this potential hazard from the water. Moments after grappling and pulling onboard the rope we looked ahead to see our Humpback friend from this morning. A perfect example as to why we need to be very careful with the equipment we use when out on the water. Here was a large amount of rope floating less than 500 meters away from a Humpback who has recently been disentangled, the very last thing we want is for this hazard to be anywhere near any whale, especially one who is injured and in need of a safe place to rest.
Please make sure when out on the water to be extra vigilant with your equipment, once introduced into an environment it is easy for things to become lost or misplaced. We have a great responsibility to do our best to eliminate any risk for our wildlife and this can be achieved through discipline and planning when working and enjoying leisure time on the water. Our little warrior has had to deal with some incredible challenges already in his young life and he has the ability to adapt and fight, we just need to make sure we help him by doing our best to eliminate hazards.
We will be in touch with DBCA and keep you informed with any updates to see if we can confirm the identity of this Humpback with any recent disentanglement’s. Should you be out on the water and come across this special whale please move slowly and be sure to give him plenty of space. His best chance of survival is to rest and we observed him sleeping for a long time today, he has chosen a beautiful place to recover in Flinders Bay and we hope to see him heal and recover.