Simulated whale rescue on White Rock beach

Training endeavour aimed to ready crews for future strandings

A handful of fishery officers, City of White Rock staff and RCMP had a whale of a dilemma on the city’s West Beach Monday afternoon.

They had to put to the test training aimed at increasing the survival rate of whales that live-strand along B.C.’s shoreline.

“We’ve had, over the years, lots of live strandings in White Rock and Boundary Bay, and this is just training to be ready if we have more,” Paul Cottrell, marine mammal co-ordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, told Peace Arch News.

“When it actually happens, it’s really complicated.”

Following a morning of in-class training, Cottrell, a South Surrey resident, challenged the team to refloat a 12-foot inflatable, using a system of pontoons and a sling.

“It looks real,” Cottrell said of the mammal, which he described as a cross between a killer whale and a pilot whale.

Filled with water for the exercise, it caught the attention of some in the area.

One woman called PAN’s office to report a beached whale.

Another, a passerby, asked PAN, “Is it real?” before settling in to watch the training exercise.

Cottrell described the sling-and-pontoons system as one that has proven “huge” in getting beached whales back to safety and out into the water quicker.

Monday’s exercise was intended to replicate a real-life scenario.

The team established a perimeter around the inflatable, then worked the sling under the animal, inflated the pontoons and transported it into the water, where they waited for it to “equilibrate”; to get used to being back in the water.

In an actual stranding, there’s “not a lot of time” to get the job done, Cottrell said.

“The quicker, the better.”

The last large whale to beach in White Rock was a juvenile humpback, on East Beach in June 2012. Many tried to help the struggling mammal, which was entangled in fishing line, but unfortunately, it did not survive.

Cottrell said even if the system tested Monday had been available locally in 2012, it would not have saved the humpback.

That whale was in such poor condition, it had “no chance,” he said.

Cottrell said Monday’s training was “also about networking and understanding the logistics of this-size mammal.”

“This unit’s really specific for these mid-size cetaceans… that you can’t lift,” he said.

Cottrell said four sets of the rescue pontoons are to be strategically placed along the coast, including in Port Hardy, to prepare for future stranding incidents.

Training is to continue in other coastal communities this week, and a second session on West Beach is set for next Monday.

 

Tracy Holmes photo Marine mammal co-ordinator Paul Cottrell supervises as trainees inflate pontoons during a whale-rescue exercise.

A juvenile humpback whale that beached in White Rock in June 2012 did not survive. Training this weeks hopes to help in future live-stranding incidents. (File photo) A juvenile humpback whale that beached in White Rock in June 2012 did not survive. Training this week hopes to help in future live-stranding incidents. (File photo)

Just Posted

Comic Amit Tandon will get Surrey laughing at life’s challenges

Popular South Asian comedian performing Sunday at Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre

Historic cricket league aims to get Surrey into the game

As new season approaches, British Columbia Mainland Cricket League looks to hit it out of the ground

Suspect sought after woman groped near North Delta high school

The incident resulted in a code yellow lockdown for neighbouring schools

Lab-closure meeting set for Friday in Ocean Park

Fraser Health to hear residents’ concerns from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Ocean Park Community Hall

Hundreds attend sixth-annual Jim Gallagher boxing tournament in Cloverdale

Jim Gallagher Memorial Award given to longtime volunteer Ken Marjoram

Surrey averaging one shooting a week in 2018

Police believe Friday night shooting in 13200-block of 62nd Avenue was targeted

SAR suspends search for missing man at Sun Peaks

RCMP will continue to search for a missing man near Kamloops but SAR has suspended their role

Lottery will help save children’s lives

Each ticket gets you a chance to win a lot of money, while helping a lot of kids

Arts Club to bring ‘The Piano Teacher,’ ‘Blind Date’ and ‘Circle Game’ to Surrey next season

Theatre company’s new White Rock-raised artistic director detailed coming plays on Monday

B.C. RCMP officer officially cleared in car wash shooting incident

A report found the Salmon Arm officer fired 14 bullets at the man’s truck

Dawson Creek man, wanted in court, sought by B.C. RCMP

33-year-old Jeremiah Alexander Smith’s vehicle found abandoned near Hope

Interest in Canadian Armed Forces remains high

Canada seeks about 5,000 recruits each year for its regular forces of about 68,000

Rules reviewed to keep drug money out of B.C. real estate

Investigator looking at loans as well as casinos, David Eby says

UPDATE: Man killed in targted Coquitlam shooting identified

IHIT also asking for information about 2018 grey Chrysler 300 on fire near the shooting

Most Read