At 12h21, Sunday, 12th January, SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) volunteers and NSRI Mykonos duty crew launched from both St Helena Bay and from NSRI Mykonos aboard two NSRI Mykonos sea rescue craft, Spirit of Surfski 5 and Jacqueline, following eye-witness reports of an adult Humpback whale entangled in fishing rope lines in the vicinity off-shore of St Helena Bay on the West Coast.
On arrival on the scene in good sea conditions the adult 12 meter Humpback whale was found accompanied by what we believe to be the whales partner and the entangled whale had a thick fishing line wrapped around the Caudal Peduncle with a bunch of rope attached and trailing 4 floatation buoys and the rope was anchored to the seabed limiting the whales movement.
A difficult and delicate disentanglement operation commenced using the specialised cutting equipment and some of the bunch of rope was cut free and recovered and 2 of the 4 floatation buoys were recovered but after light faded into the night the operation was forced to be suspended for safety reasons.
The whale had better movement and remained accompanied by its partner but SAWDN were forced to leave them for the night with the whale still anchored to the seabed.
On Monday morning, 13 January, SAWDN volunteers from NSRI Mykonos and from Cape Town and the NSRI Mykonos duty crew returned to the scene aboard the 2 sea rescue craft and assisted by a local research vessel that helped to lift the anchored line, in an ongoing disentanglement operation, the thick rope attached around the Caudal Peduncle was cut free using the specialised cutting equipment and the line and the remaining floatation buoys were recovered.
The whale appears to be healthy and SAWDN are satisfied that the whale will survive following this successful disentanglement operation.
As if to show the rescuers that all rope was successfully cut free from the whale the whale lifted its tail well enough out of the water to show off its Caudal Peduncle with no remaining rope left on it before it swam away with its partner.
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, Telkom Maritime Radio Services, KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, Department of Environmental Affairs, 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, 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: 195