Three Nova Scotia men free juvenile whale tangled in fishing net

Men saving juvenile whale

Thanks to three men from Nova Scotia, there may be one less whale that meets its fate by getting caught in fishing gear.

Nathaniel Denton, Barry O’Neil, and Dallas Kenley were working on a lobster boat on the shores of Digby, Nova Scotia, when they heard a noise in the water behind them. When they looked back, they first thought it was a dolphin, but it was actually a juvenile whale.

Once the men got a closer look, they also noticed that the 16-foot whale was caught in a fishing net.

Photo by Nathaniel Denton

Although entanglement is considered a threat to Canada’s whale populations, according to the B.C. cetacean sightings network, the extent of the issue is not well understood because so many instances go unreported or even undetected.

What researchers do know, however, is that entanglement can lead to drowning and other harmful consequences. If the creature is still able to swim, long-term entanglements can affect its ability to feed, and as the line cuts further into its body, it can lead to infection and deformation.

Nathaniel Denton

Denton told Buzzfeed Canada that the net was wrapped so tightly around the whale’s jaw that it had “almost grown into its skin.”

All three men jumped to the whale’s rescue and immediately started cutting the line with a knife. Lucky for them, the whale stayed still through the entire process.

“The whole time cutting it off, it just sat there, calm as anything,” Denton said. “It seemed like it understood what we were doing.”

Photo by Nathaniel Denton

They were able to cut away all of the netting in a matter of minutes, but the whale didn’t come out of it completely unscathed. Removing the net did cause some bleeding, but Denton told Buzzfeed that based on the whale’s size, it wasn’t too much.

Once free, the whale sat in the shallow waters next to the men for a few minutes before heading back into the ocean.

The men can’t say for sure why the whale came to shore, but Denton thinks it showed up for a reason.

“…it seems that he was there looking for help.”