Ian Klopper, SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) team leader, said:
SAWDN (South African Whale Disentanglement Network) volunteers were alerted at 16h26, Tuesday, 24th March, following reports of a whale dragging a buoy and rope in the vicinity of Kommetjie approximately 1.5 nautical miles North West of the Slangkop lighthouse.
The report came from a local fishing vessel heading out to the fishing grounds. Weather conditions were clear with a South East light wind of 10 knots and a swell of approximately 1 meter.
NSRI Kommetjie sea rescue craft Spirit of the Vines and IL Batello were launched from NSRI Kommetjie sea rescue base at 16h37 accompanied by SAWDN volunteers on both vessels with the specialised whale disentanglement equipment.
On arrival in the area we located multiple Humpback whales and moved from one to another looking for the entangled whale. Both boats searched for an hour. Due to concerns of fading light NSRI Hout Bay were activated and launched their sea rescue craft Albie Matthews to assist in locating the whale.
A local Oceana fishing vessel, at sea in the area at the time, contacted NSRI and confirmed that they had passed by the entangled whale and reported its updated position.
At 17h52 NSRI Kommetjie located the whale, an approximately 7 metre juvenile Humpback whale, dragging 2 long lines wrapped through the mouth, one attached to a buoy with a piece of kelp entangled in the rope.
The whale was extremely active and was swimming at high speed, diving regularly, and this made the disentanglement task all the more challenging and difficult.
After following the whale for a short period of time the NSRI sea rescue craft managed to reach the trailing line and the SAWDN crew attached a kegging buoy to slow the whale down and prevent the team from losing the whale.
A grappling hook was thrown and locked onto the rope trailing the buoy approximately 2 meters from the whale’s head on its left-hand side.
A second kegging buoy was attached which dragged 5 meters behind the whale.
The line behind the front kegging buoy was then cut to make the operation more manageable.
The first cut was to the rope on the left-hand side of the mouth which freed the buoy, a bolus of coiled rope as well as a longer trailed line to the kegging buoy.
The line through the mouth which trailed a length of line behind the whale was lifted using a specialised cutting knife and pulled towards the whale. The whale rolled over onto its back and its head came up to approximately 1 meter below the surface with its mouth closed and still moving through the water at about 5 knots.
The rope was cut and all rope and floatation buoys were recovered.
SAWDN are confident the whale will survive as it swam away with strong movement following this challenging but successful operation.
The operation was completed at 18h21.
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 Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Centre for Sustainable Oceans at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Nature, Mammal Research Institute, South African National Parks, South African Police Service, 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: 201
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