Whale assisted in an extremely difficult disentanglement operation – Cape Point

At 15h36, Saturday, 06th August, the SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) were activated following reports of a whale discovered by a local fishing ski-boat crew to be entangled in fishing rope and floatation buoys 500 meters off-shore of Cape Point on the False Bay side.

The NSRI Simon’s Town sea rescue craft Spirit of Surf-ski II launched and on arrival on the scene they stood by at the whale, an 8.5 meter juvenile Humpback whale, while the SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) volunteers geared up and SAWDN were brought to the scene aboard the sea rescue craft Spirit of Safmarine III arriving at sunset.

Mike Meyer, head of SAWDN and of the Department of Environmental Affairs – Oceans and Coasts, said that the whale was found to be trapped to the sea bed entangled in multiple ropes and floatation buoys and appearing to be trapped to rope anchored to rock lobster nets on the sea bed.

The whale had at least 5 ropes entangled around the flukes and tail and the rope was twisted and entangled into a birds nest of rope and although the whale had minimal movement the whale kept avoiding the efforts by SAWDN to cut at the rope by diving below the surface making efforts to cut rope extremely difficult.

It is suspected that the whale may have dragged the rock lobster nets to the area which appeared to have become snarled in rocks closer to the shore effectively anchoring the whale to the sea bed.

The operation on Saturday evening continued after sunset and making use of flood lights at least three cuts were made to rope but after dark the operation became increasingly hazardous, particularly with the whale which kept on diving to avoid the cutting efforts, and it was deemed too unsafe to continue at night and the operation was suspended at 19h00.

An all ships Maritime Navigational Hazard alert was posted by Telkom Maritime Radio Services warning vessels in the area of the whales position and the alert continued to be broadcast throughout the night.
The local ski-boat fraternity were also notified to avoid the area as fears were that any craft of vessel venturing into the area may injure the animal.

NSRI Simon’s Town duty crew volunteered to launch again before sunrise accompanied by the SAWDN volunteers and on Sunday morning, 07th August, at first light the sea rescue craft carrying the SAWDN team arrived on the scene to find the whale in the same place and the disentanglement operation continued.

Although the whale showed signs being tired efforts to cut at the ropes continued to be hampered by the whale keeping on diving to avoid the rescue attempts and the operation required more resources and a larger vessel was summoned.

At 09h48 a call was made to Gary Nel, one of the Octopus permit holders, requesting the assistance of their large fishing vessel and Gary volunteered to launch their deep-sea fishing vessel Albatross from Kalk Bay Harbour to join in the rescue operation (despite these nets not belonging to Gary’s operation).

Once on-scene the crew aboard the Albatross were able to lift the lines from a relative distance away and lifting the lines leading towards the whale while the SAWDN volunteers cut on the lifted lines and eventually after a 7 hour operation, deemed to be the most difficult disentanglement operation to date, all of the lines, estimated to be at least 11 wraps, were cut free of the whale and recovered and the whale has been successfully freed and appears to be strong and healthy and the whale has swum off.

SAWDN express heartfelt gratitude to the NSRI Simon’s Town sea rescue craft and the NSRI Simon’s Town coxswains and crew and to the seamanship displayed by the fishing boat Albatross and her crew.

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Picture taken by NSRI Simon’s Town shows SAWDN volunteers cutting at lines from the sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski II and assisted by the fishing vessel Albatross and her crew.


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10 Responses to “Whale assisted in an extremely difficult disentanglement operation – Cape Point”

  1. Bernie Chicken
    07. Aug, 2016 at 18:36 #

    Fantastic job guys, well done all.

  2. Mandy
    07. Aug, 2016 at 18:40 #

    You guys rock! Thank you 🙂

  3. Hilton
    07. Aug, 2016 at 19:00 #

    Awesome team work by everyone involved. Thank you to all involved. #SaveOurSeas

  4. Annemarie
    07. Aug, 2016 at 19:50 #

    You are all superheroes! Thank you!

  5. Chris Brown
    07. Aug, 2016 at 22:09 #

    Another huge success by the crew on board Albatross. These guys are the the real hero’s in this story.

  6. Dave Melly
    07. Aug, 2016 at 23:12 #

    Great to hear the operation was successful ! I announced it on Channel 71 this am as requested by Rescue 10 however I do not think there were any ski-boats at sea at this time.

  7. Clare
    08. Aug, 2016 at 08:25 #

    You and the Albatross crew did an incredible job. Thank you. Why does this keep happening, though? Why are the lobster and octopus fisheries in False Bay catching so many whales? What is the long-term plan to mitigate this? Is someone at DAFF paying attention?

  8. Iain
    08. Aug, 2016 at 21:24 #

    What fantastic work you all do The crew involved must have found this particular job very emotional and ultimately extremely rewarding

  9. Garry Nel
    09. Aug, 2016 at 10:00 #

    Hello All,
    I thought it appropriate that I add my opinion……and some facts.

    The South African Whale Detangling Unit & NSRI are the REAL Hero’s here.
    They are permanently on-standby for these types of situations and others, far worst.

    Albatross & her Crew are very humbled by these experiences, each & every time – so far most cases have been successful and a few not.

    Fact – Albatross, as do the individuals from the units above, volunteer their time and accept the very real risks.

    Albatross – on the other hand is a private entity and is not sponsored to participate in these types of operations. There is enormous risk to live & vessel – the costs would be approx R3000 – depending on location.

    Fact – Albatross and her Crew have designed their octopus fishing gear specifically with whale mitigation in mind.We implement and fish with these measures in place and in mind. More so than any other fishery in SA. The design of our gear was presented at a international whale conference in Boston, USA, last year, as to measures & designs that can be taken to avoid this issue, as much as humanly possible.

    Fact – the Humpback population is growing at approx -6-8%, per year, and there are real disturbances in their feeding patterns & migrations been noted in SA and around the world, amoungst other whales/animal species.

    DAFF & Permit Holders have been trying to sustainably and viably introduce this specific octopus fishery, for over 2 decades and are doing so in a conservative, measured and controlled manner.

    FACT – Job Creation, food security and export revenues are vital to the future well been of our beautiful country, with all its people and creatures.The octopus fishery is one of the last remaining sustainable biomass’s, yet to be fully quantified and as such has great potential of offering relieve to our mostly unemployed fishing communities and damaged oceanic resources.

    So – the answer is YES – DAFF & conscientious Permit Holders are paying great costs & attention to implementing this fishery correctly and certain individuals are prepared to ” put their money where there mouth/life is”. – and get out there and do the job! – correctly..

    I hope that this sheds some light on the matter and thank you all for your concerns and thoughts.
    Best Regards, Garry Nel.

    • Megan Hughes
      09. Aug, 2016 at 15:44 #

      Thank you Garry, NSRI is very appreciative of your assistance.

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