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Campbell River man undergoes facial surgery after breaching humpback whale collides with boat
Judith Lavoie / Times Colonist
May 17, 2013

A humpback whale collided with a boat near Kelsey Bay, off northeast Vancouver Island. Photograph by: a handout, Vancouver Aquarium
A Campbell River man underwent facial surgery Friday after a whale breached and collided with his boat, prompting marine life researchers to warn boaters to be on the lookout for increasing numbers of humpback whales around Vancouver Island.
“This accident is a good reason for people to take notice,” said Christie McMillan, president of the non-profit Marine Education and Research Society, which is conducting research on the resurgence of humpbacks.
“It’s humans as well as whales that can be hurt. They should be aware there are humpbacks all around Vancouver Island.”
McMillan has searched for the whale without success since the collision Wednesday near Kelsey Bay, off northeast Vancouver Island. “There’s definitely a good possibility that it didn’t survive,” she said.
The whale breached in front of the man’s Grady-White fibreglass boat and the impact cracked the hull and sent him through the windshield.
Adult humpbacks are usually 13 to 15 metres long and weigh up to 40 tonnes, McMillan said.
“It was a day of white caps and wind and the whale popped out right in front of him,” said Jackie Hildering of the Marine Education and Research Society.
Encounters between boaters and humpbacks are increasing as the whales return to their traditional areas, said Hildering.
Humpbacks are baleen whales and do not echo-locate, as killer whales do, she said. “They surface unpredictably and they seem to be oblivious to boats.”
Boaters should watch for whale blows and slow down in areas where humpbacks congregate, said Hildering, who wants Fisheries and Oceans Canada to conduct more boater education.
Humpbacks, which are listed as threatened, were almost wiped out by whaling around the B.C. coast, but started returning in 2004 after a nearly four-decade absence. Out of a northern Pacific population of about 18,000, more than 60 are regularly seen around Telegraph Cove, off the Island’s northeast coast.
Boaters who collide with whales should immediately report to the DFO Marine Mammal Incident hotline at 1-800-465-4336 so the whale can be tracked, Hildering said.
jlavoie@timescolonist.com
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