Video release by SAWDN. You can watch the video on YouTube by clicking here.
At 08h28, Wednesday, 01st July, the South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) responded to approximately 1 nautical mile off Hangklip, False Bay (between Gordon’s Bay and Hermanus) following reports of a Humpback whale entangled in rope and buoys.
This time of year marks the beginning of whales natural migration Northward and plenty of whales have been spotted beginning to depart Cape waters heading Northwards with a particularly large amount of whales spotted off Cape Point recently.
The trained SAWDN whale disentanglement team responded aboard the NSRI Simonstown sea rescue craft SPIRIT OF SAFMARINE III and SPIRIT OF SURFSKI II and the NSRI Gordon’s Bay sea rescue craft SPIRIT OF SURFSKI.
On arrival on-scene at 12h47, the 8 meter and approximately 1 year old Humpback whale was found to be entangled in rope and floatation buoys. At first there appeared to be 3 wraps of rope: 1 around each of the flukes and 1 around the Cordal Peduncle, forming a triangle and secured to a line trailing behind the whale, with a bunch of rope trailing attached to that line and the rope anchored to at least 8 rock lobster traps. 40 meters of free rope, between the anchored traps and the whale, allowed the whale freedom of movement, to dive freely and move about freely despite being anchored to the sea bed. This left the whale able to dive and swim around to avoid the rescue boats and to avoid our attempts to rescue the whale.
To keep the whale in reach of a rescue effort, the SAWDN volunteers attached larger floatation buoys to the back and the front of the whale (attached to existing entangled ropes) effectively floating the whale and keeping it from being able to dive out of reach of the team. Once the whale was floating (unable to dive down), the team quickly got to work cutting line free. Once the first line was cut, the rest of the rope loosened and unravelled itself, freeing the whale. Now free of the entanglement, the whale dived and swam away off strongly.
Once the rope had been cut (using the specialised SAWDN cutting knives on poles) it became clear that only one rope anchored to a lobster trap on the sea bed had entangled the whale. That rope most likely entangled other rope as the whale swam around in circles causing the rope to wrap around the whale and pulling tighter.
“The whale appeared healthy and strong throughout the operation which took an hour (completed at 13h47) and the outcome is successful”, said Mike Meyer, head of SAWDN.
“Interestingly with this whale the right side of the tip of one fluke has clearly been bitten off by an Orca whale in another incident that must have happened some time ago as the wound has already healed” said Mike.
The team returned to harbour at 17h30.
THE SOUTH AFRICAN WHALE DISENTANGLEMENT NETWORK IS A VOLUNTEER NETWORK THAT BEGAN IN 2006 MADE UP OF VOLUNTEERS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT – OCEANS AND COASTS, NSRI, THE DOLPHIN ACTION AND PROTECTION GROUP, TELKOM MARITIME RADIO SERVICES, SA NATIONAL PARKS, THE SA POLICE SERVICES, RESEARCH ORGANISATIONS, THE NATAL SHARKS BOARD, TABLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARKS, WEST COAST WILDLIFE RESCUE AND A HOST OF VARIOUS MARINE AND ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS.
If you see a whale that is entangled please report this to SAWDN on 0825787617.
Images are available for download on FLICKR