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Humpback whale trapped on B.C. beach dies

A beached whale on White Rock Beach, in White Rock June 12, 2012.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

A young humpback whale found entangled in fishing net has died after grounding itself on White Rock beach, south of Vancouver.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans marine mammal co-ordinator Paul Cottrell said the severely emaciated young whale was first spotted as water receded from the sandy, tidal flats early Tuesday morning.

Mr. Cottrell said the eight- to 10-metre long juvenile died just hours after beaching itself.

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"It had been struggling for a long time and likely hadn't been eating for a long time," he said.

"There may be other underlying issues regarding the animal's health as well as the fishing gear," said Mr. Cottrell. "It had been towing it, it was through it's mouth."

Mr. Cottrell said experts will try to identify the whale from the patterns on its tail fluke.

"That's kind of a fingerprint we have to see where the animal is from. We'll be taking DNA samples as well as other samples ... and hopefully we will be able to determine the individual animal because there is a photo ID catalogue with tail fluke patterns."

If the animal can be identified, Mr. Cottrell said they may be able to tell where it has been in the past.

Mr. Cottrell said the fish netting was collected after being cut off the whale and it can also be tracked to identify the owner, although he noted that this appears to be a case of accidental entanglement.

Information about how the whale was entangled will also be used to determine future threats to the recovery of humpback whales off the B.C. coast.

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The whales are listed as threatened under Canada's Species at Risk Act, but have become a more common sight in the last few years in B.C. waters.

Mr. Cottrell said this wasn't the first time a humpback has been caught in fishing gear on the B.C. coast, this year.

He said rescuers managed to cut away the ropes of a prawn trap from an exhausted whale in Knight Inlet, southwest of Port Hardy, B.C., about three weeks ago.

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