At 17h01, Sunday, 04th August, SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) volunteers launched from Port Alfred aboard two NSRI Port Alfred sea rescue craft, Lotto Challenger and Rescue 11 Alpha following reports from a container ship, passing the coast of Port Alfred. They alerted Port Elizabeth TNPA (Transnet National Port Authority) of a whale they had spotted to be entangled in fishing rope lines and flotation buoys in the vicinity of Port Alfred on the East Coast.
On arrival on the scene SAWDN and NSRI Port Alfred commenced a search but no sign of the whale could be located and at last light on Sunday evening the search operation was suspended.
At 07h30, Monday, 05th August, SAWDN were alerted by fishermen at sea on a fishing boat who spotted the entangled whale 1.5 nautical miles off the Kowie River Mouth, Port Alfred, and raised the alarm. SAWDN volunteers and NSRI Port Alfred volunteers aboard the 2 NSRI Port Alfred sea rescue craft responded to the location.
SWADN members in Port Elizabeth and in Cape Town communicated advice to the Port Alfred team during the operation and monitored the operation.
While the SAWDN cutting equipment and gear, in Port Elizabeth, was being arranged to be transported to Port Alfred, the SAWDN and NSRI Port Alfred members, in Port Alfred, fearing that the whale may move away from where it had been spotted, rigged makeshift disentanglement cutting equipment and makeshift disentanglement gear that was used in this disentanglement operation.
On arrival on the scene a 9 meter Humpback whale was found with fishing rope entangled through and around the whales mouth attached to fishing gear, crayfish traps and flotation buoys.
In a sensitive and delicate operation lasting 2 hours the team gently cut free all entangled fishing rope and gear successfully freeing the adult whale from the entanglement.
The fishing rope and gear was recovered for disposal.
While the whale appeared to be weak and tired the whale does appear to be healthy and following this ordeal SAWDN are confident that after this successful disentanglement operation the whale will survive and gradually regain strength and health.
The South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) was established in 2006 in order to manage entangled whales using specialized equipment and is comprised of trained volunteers from the – National Sea Rescue Institute, KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, Department of Environmental Affairs, Telkom Maritime Radio Services, Centre for Sustainable Oceans at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Nature, Mammal Research Institute, South African National Parks, South African Police Service, Department of Environment Forestry and Fisheries, Cape Nature, Bayworld, various Boat Based Whale Watching and Shark Cage Diving Operators, the Rock Lobster Industry and the Octopus Industry and fully supported by the Dolphin Action and Protection Group.
SAWDN COVERS THE ENTIRE SA COASTLINE
Whales assisted to date: 186