Watch out for whales Print E-mail
Friday, 13 April 2007 00:00

Watch out for whales

By Robyn Skinner, Royal Gazette, 13 Apr 07

Wounded Whale: A photo supplied by Wendy-Ann Frith who was aboard the Fantasea Whale Watch Tour on Wednesday shows a humpback whale with a gash from a propeller.

Boaters are being urged to keep a careful watch out for whales after one was seen with a huge wound probably caused by a propeller.

This picture was taken off Bermuda by a visitors on a tour boat and clearly shows a badly injured whale.

Humpbacks are currently migrating from the Caribbean seas, where they have their calves, to Northern seas for their feeding grounds.

The migration provides an amazing opportunity for the public to see the creatures, but the wounded whale is also a sobering message for the public, according to Jennifer Gray, Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan Coordinator, of Conservation Services.

She said: "It is a good opportunity to remind people these are slow moving, gracious creatures and they need to slow down in their boats."

The whale was spotted on Wednesday, by a group of 25 visitors and locals on the Fantasea Glass Bottom Boat.

Michael Heslop, captain of the boat, said: "We saw the whale about six miles off of Chubs Head to the west of Bermuda. It was with a group of five other whales, which were hanging around the boat for an hour.


"It was a massive cut. When you see it close up, it was cut right through the animal and was a foot deep."

Greg Early, Program Manager for Strandings Investigations Program at Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, said: "It looks like a deep skin wound and probably looks worse then it is.

"It appears to be through the fleshy part of the whale, which makes it less serious, but it's really difficult to tell without looking on the other side of the animal."

Mr. Heslop has been taking people on whale watching tours for 18 years and only remembers one other issue with a whale in Bermuda's waters almost 15 years ago.

The whale was caught in tough nylon netting and though he and others, tried to help release the whale, they had to let it go.

He believes the wounded whale they saw on Wednesday was hit by a large, fast moving boat's propeller because of the size and depth of the gash. But he was not sure it was done by someone in Bermuda waters.

He added: "I think boaters are cautious when they come out to see the whales and the fishermen are conscious of where they are going.

"Two years ago there was a humpback whale that was struck by a cruise ship and got stuck to the bow. I think the whales are hurt more often, now, because they've been the king of the ocean.

"They haven't really had any predators so they never had to worry where they were going. Now boats are injuring them."

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