British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (photo: Steve Marsh)
British Divers Marine Rescue


2011-07-18 16:43:30

Juvenile Humpback Whale entangled in net

STOP PRESS: The juvenile humpback whale was spotted again this morning, Wednesday 20 July, off the coast of Cornwall.  BDMLR medics have put to sea to assess the condition of the whale again and to see if a rescue operation is feasible.


Juvenile Humpback WhaleOn Wednesday evening 13th July 2011, Tim Bain was advised by a fisherman in St Ives, Cornwall, that he had an encounter with a whale during the day. It approached his boat, rolled onto its side and then dived. The fisherman says that there was a large orange 'cod end' of a trawl net around the animal and possibly in its mouth.

Approximately 30ft long, it was seen approximately 4 miles off St Ives and headed towards Lands End. As by the time of the call it was already dark, nothing could be done until the following day, but all relevant agencies were alerted in case of sightings.

The next day, two boats with nine medics were launched following another reported sighting by local boatmen. After a long day searching for it, the whale was found in the evening and identified as a juvenile humpback whale, with a line in front of the dorsal hump and dragging more netting below it. The young whale was seen to be feeding along a plankton line - this was taken as a good sign. As the night was closing in and the team did not have the specialist equipment necessary for attempting a rescue, the boats returned to shore.

Alan Knight and Gavin Parsons, who have both been trained on disentanglement, headed off that evening to Cornwall carrying specialist cutting blades and poles. Arriving early on the Friday morning, they joined the Cornish BDMLR teams and went out to sea again when the weather allowed. As the weather was closing in and hitting gale force 7 at times, the boats had a very small window of opportunity for searching and returned to shore later that day with sadly no success.

The weather in the South West has not been good over the weekend, but the BDMLR team is on standby waiting for a break in the weather and further sighting reports. A humpback of this size would probably no longer be maternally dependent, but of course the net entanglement is of major concern, especially in the stormy weather currently being experienced off the Cornish coast. We will update if and when we have more information. Many thanks are due to all of those who have been involved in this incident.

Stephen Marsh
BDMLR Operations Manager