By Kaitlin Paquette
Discovery Marine Safaris Marine Naturalist
Some of you may remember summer 2020 – when news of this majestic giant being entangled first surfaced.
Checkmate (BCYuk2018#10) is one of many humpback whales that migrates to British Columbia to feed. You may even have had the chance to see Checkmate on a trip out of Campbell River. First documented by MERS (Marine Education and Research Society) in 2018 Checkmate has returned to the area in 2019 and 2020.
It was July 25, 2020 when reports of Checkmate being entangled first came out. He/She had rope running through their mouth and wrapped around the right pectoral fin. Efforts to disentangle proved unsuccessful despite many different attempts. By complete stroke of luck, DFO was able to confirm that Checkmate was free from entanglement on Sept. 10, 2020 via aerial photos.
As someone who has spent time on the water with Checkmate, I was glued to all the updates on his/her status I could find. Checkmate was one of four whales entangled at the same time on the coast – and the only one who was seen during and after his/her entanglement. The status of the other three remains unknown.
Checkmate’s story is a tale all too familiar for the humpback whales of B.C.’s coastline. Many are victims of entanglement from fishing equipment and discarded gear. The lucky ones bear the scars of these events for the rest of their lives – some perhaps even becoming disfigured or losing parts of their appendages. Some unlucky humpbacks that become entangled may never be discovered and may suffer a slow and painful demise. This is important because although Checkmate’s story had a happy ending – we must remember that our work is far from over.
Fast forward to February 2021. I was checking my phone before bed one night and I saw a new notification on my phone about Checkmate. I was about to discover some very exciting news. On Feb. 26, 2021, Checkmate was spotted in Hawaii near the island of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary. Not only is he/she okay and out there thriving but also we now know that Hawaii is potentially the yearly breeding location for this whale. Words cannot describe the excitement of learning another piece of the puzzle when it comes to these whales.
If you want to learn more about the protocol and what to do upon encountering an entangled whale please stay tuned for the next installment in our series and consider watching the video entitled ‘How to Save a Whale’ – which was created by our friends at the Marine Education and Research Society: http://www.howtosaveawhale.org/
For more information visit https://www.adventurewhalewatching.com