SAWDN MEDIA STATEMENT:
At 10h20, Thursday, 06 July, the SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) volunteers launched from the Port of Port Elizabeth aboard two NSRI Port Elizabeth sea rescue craft, Eikos Rescuer IV and Spirit of Surfski IV, following eye-witness reports of a whale spotted entangled in fishing rope lines in the vicinity of Willows, West of Cape Recife, about a nautical mile off-shore.
On arrival on the scene a search commenced and during the search, about 5 nautical miles from the initial reported sighting, assisted by a fishing trawler that had come across the entangled whale, an 8 to 9 meter juvenile Humpback whale was found entangled in fishing rope and a single flotation buoy and the whale was trailed by the sea rescue craft and found to be swimming strongly despite the entanglement.
On closer investigation we found rope around the head and running to the left flipper and running to wraps around the tail with about 10 meters of trailing line following behind and a small flotation buoy, said Steven McCue of the Department of Environmental Affairs – Oceans and Coasts and of the SA Whale Disentanglement Network.
The whale was swimming along strongly and appearing to be disinterested in the sea rescue craft following along.
In order to try to slow the whale down with some difficulty 2 kegging buoys and a dragging line to the sea rescue craft Eikos Rescuer IV were attached to the lines that were already entangling the whale and after about a further 10 nautical miles of open water and now deep into Algoa Bay, with regular attempts made by the SAWDN volunteers to cut at the lines using the SAWDN specialised cutting equipment, in a difficult disentanglement operation, the lines to the head and to the flipper were cut but efforts to completely cut through a remaining tail line were unsuccessful but SAWDN are confident that the rope will fall away freely in time and not hinder the whales natural movement until it falls away.
All rope and the floatation buoy that were cut away were recovered for disposal.
A SAWDN specialised grappling hook was lost to the sea during the operation and rope from the grappling hooks were damaged and some snapped and although they were able to be tied together to successfully complete the operation the ropes for the Port Elizabeth SAWDN will need to be replaced.
The whale was last seen swimming strongly and SAWDN are confident that this operation has been successful.
Algoa Bay was full of whales.
THE SOUTH AFRICAN WHALE DISENTANGLEMENT NETWORK (SAWDN) IS A VOLUNTEER NETWORK THAT BEGAN IN 2006 MADE UP OF VOLUNTEERS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS – OCEANS AND COASTS, NSRI, THE DOLPHIN ACTION AND PROTECTION GROUP, TELKOM MARITIME RADIO SERVICES, SA NATIONAL PARKS, THE SA POLICE SERVICES DIVE UNIT, RESEARCH ORGANISATIONS, THE NATAL SHARKS BOARD, TABLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARKS, WEST COAST WILDLIFE RESCUE AND A HOST OF VARIOUS MARINE, AQUATIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS.
SAWDN (SOUTH AFRICAN WHALE DISENTANGLEMENT NETWORK) Spokesman