Another humpback whale has been struck by a BC Ferries vessel on the northwest coast, the second this summer, the company confirms.
CEO Nicolas Jimenez said the whale was stuck by the Northern Expedition, which was travelling between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert on Tuesday evening.
It’s the same vessel that struck a first humpback whale on July 20 in Wright Sound.
“It’s disturbing, quite frankly,” Jimenez said at an unrelated Thursday press conference.
“We take these things really seriously because they happen so rarely, and I can’t stress that enough.”
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Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) said it was aware of a potential Humpback w hale strike in the Fitz Hugh Sound on Aug. 29.
The agency said it had notified local First Nations, researchers and NGOs in the area, which can monitor and report the injured animal if they se it.
It said the vessel operator was also cooperating with DFO.
The condition of the whale is unknown, Jimenez said, as the company is awaiting a report from the federal department.
“We’re seeing large populations of whales moving through these waterways,” he said.
“Our new protocol is to lower our vessel speed going through the areas where we are most likely to encounter whales, and even with and even with the mitigation measures put in place in an attempt to avoid the strike, it still occurred.”
The strike followed a near-miss that very same day, he added.
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Earlier this month, Global News reported that three humpback whales were stuck within a 10-day period on shipping routes near Prince Rupert and Kitimat between July 20 and 29.
The first strike was on July 20 with BC Ferries’ Northern Expedition and the second was on July 21 with a boat taking workers to Alcan Rio Tinto’s Kemano hydroelectric dam.
The third happened in Hecate Straight on July 29 and involved a cruise ship.
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Commercial hunting of humpback whales was banned in the 1960s, helping bring the species back from the verge of extinction.
According to the Pacific Whale Watch Association, 2022 was a record-breaking year for humpback whale sightings in the Salish Sea. Nearly 400 individual whales were photographed over the course of the season — the highest number documented in a single year in at least the last century.
Despite the rebound, humpback researcher Jackie Hildering said “adaptation is needed” to keep the numbers headed in the right direction.
“We have a second chance with a species at risk. When does that happen?” the Canadian Pacific Humpback Collaboration spokesperson said.
“This is not about blame. This is about learning and these accidents — these very unfortunate accidents — being about establishing a culture of openness, of communication, of learning.”
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Humpback whales migrate to warm water, but don’t all do it at the same time, she added. That means a humpback whale could be present in B.C. waters at any time.
It’s also difficult to determine how many strikes have occurred and what injuries have ensued, she explained, because the whales don’t travel in family groups and can be hard to find alone.
— with files from Darrian Matassa-Fung
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