This photo shows the fresh, deep gash on a humpback whale. Photo courtesy Peter Hamilton/Lifeforce Ocean Friends

Injured humpback whale spotted near Comox

Fresh gash on juvenile possibly caused by boat prop

An injured humpback whale has a local conservationist concerned.

Peter Hamilton, of Lifeforce Ocean Friends, said he first spotted the juvenile swimming alone on July 8, in the Georgia Strait, about a mile off Cape Lazo, near Comox.

“I was out, and I saw this one humpback alone, doing very shallow surfacing, which I thought was a little unusual, so I observed [it] for a while and saw some injuries on its side,” said Hamilton. “Eventually he or she swam close to the boat and I got a photo of a very deep cut, exposing part of the spine, between the dorsal fin and the tail.”

Hamilton was unsure of the cause of the injury.

“It could have been a prop, or it could have been an entanglement, but there was no reports of anyone untangling a humpback,” he said. “The cut itself looked like it could have been done by a boat prop, but there were other marks that looked like they could have been rope burns.

“I’ve been in communication with Jackie [Hildering] at MERS (Marine Education and Research Society), trying to determine the injury. Hopefully we can determine the cause of the injury soon.”

Hamilton said he saw the whale again two days later, this time swimming with another whale.

“That is hopeful, seeing it with another whale. It was kind of worrisome, seeing one humpback alone, with such a severe, fresh wound.”

In May, photos surfaced online of an injured humpback in Howe Sound. That injury was suspected to have been caused by a boat propeller.

“There is a lot of human activity on the waters, which makes it hazardous for the whales,” said Hamilton. “Unfortunately, the new regulations did not increase the distance boaters have to keep from humpbacks. It should be at least 200 metres.”

RELATED: New regulations call for more distance between boats and whales

New regulations imposed this week stipulate boats must remain 200 metres from all killer whales in B.C. The regulated distance from humpbacks remains 100 metres.

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