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Bigger boats, more nets, people converge for new B.C. orca rescue attempt

Second attempt to help orphan get back to the open ocean could happen at any time
Ehattesaht Chief Simon John uses a contour map of the Espinosa Inlet to talk about a two-year-old female orca calf stranded in a lagoon in the area where her pregnant mother died nearly four weeks ago, during a meeting at the Ehattesaht First Nation’s band office, in Zeballos, B.C., Thursday, April 18, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

A large seine fishing vessel capable of casting a net strong enough to hold a nearly 700-kilogram killer whale calf has arrived in Zeballos, B.C., to participate in the latest attempt to rescue the young orca stranded in a remote tidal lagoon.

The flat-bottom aluminum vessel has a built-in crane-like device for lifting heavy nets, and it’s expected to be deployed as part of a rescue effort that could happen any day now in the lagoon on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island.

The female calf has been stranded alone for nearly a month since its pregnant mother died after becoming trapped on a beach at low tide.

An unsuccessful rescue attempt last Friday involved a team of more than 50 people who failed to corral the calf into a shallow area of the lagoon, where the plan was to manoeuvre the whale into a sling, lift it onto a truck, then take it on a barge out to sea, for a potential reunion with its pod.

Ehattesaht First Nation Chief Simon John says the next attempt to rescue the calf — which the nation has named the young orca kwiisahi?is, or Brave Little Hunter — will “happen eventually.”

Additional equipment and resources, including marine experts from the Vancouver Aquarium, the federal Fisheries Department and Indigenous nations, have gathered again in Zeballos for the second planned rescue attempt in just over a week.

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