Jaco Louw, SAWDN team leader, said:
At 07h58, Friday, 22nd of May, SAWDN (SA Whale Disentanglement Network) were alerted by fisherman on the local commercial fishing vessel Rusvic of a Bryde’s whale entangled in fishing ropes and floatation buoys South West off-shore of Agulhus lighthouse.
NSRI station 30 Agulhas were alerted and the sea rescue craft Agulhas Rescuer was launched at Struisbaai harbour, accompanied by SAWDN volunteers and SAWDN specialised disentanglement equipment, and headed towards Agulhas.
Our NSRI sea rescue vehicle was dispatched to Agulhas beach towing the sea rescue craft I&J Rescuer 4 which was launched at Suiderstrand and met up with Agulhas Rescuer behind the surf line and then both sea rescue craft proceeded to deeper water to the whale which was found off-shore 3 nautical miles South West of Agulhas lighthouse..
The fishing vessel Rusvic had remained on the scene to assist by monitoring the position and movement of the whale until the NSRI sea rescue craft and SAWDN team arrived.
On arrival on scene the crew aboard I&J Rescuer 4 approached the whale and determined it to be an adult 9 meter Bryde’s whale with buoys and ropes attached in wraps around the tail.
The whale was moving freely in the water and our SAWDN team attached larger kegging buoys to the existing buoys to provide drag to slow the whale down.
The sea rescue craft followed the whale for an hour giving the whale a chance to tire sufficiently to slow down enough to give our SAWDN team the opportunity to get close enough to the whale to safely begin cutting at the ropes using the SAWDN specialised cutting equipment.
Cutting of the ropes commenced and we were able to cut the ropes around the tail releasing all of the ropes and floatation buoys in two cuts and once freed from the burden of the ropes and the floatation buoys the whale then immediately swam free and also hastened in pace appearing to be relieved to be free from the burden.
All the ropes and buoys were recovered onto the sea rescue craft.
The duration of the operation on the scene was 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The whale was monitored for a while and seen to be swimming freely and strongly we are confident that this operation has been successful.
The sea rescue craft headed back to Struisbaai harbour and both were recovered, refuelled and prepared at the NSRI Agulhas sea rescue base for the next operation.
We commend the skipper and crew of the fishing vessel Rusvic who were willing to stay with the whale and therefore they could relay the correct updated position of the whale.
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