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At 09h29, Tuesday, 10 August, SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) volunteers launched from NSRI Gqeberha sea rescue base aboard two NSRI Gqeberha sea rescue craft, JLT Rescuer and Spirit of Surfski 4, following eye-witness reports of a whale entangled in fishing rope lines just outside of the Port of Port Elizabeth.

Ian Gray, SAWDN Gqeberha coordinator, said:

On arrival on the scene an approximately 7 meter juvenile Humpback whale was found inside of the Port of Port Elizabeth entangled in fishing rope wrapped around the Caudal Peduncle with 2 floatation buoys attached.

The whale, with freedom of movement, was found to be docile.

A working line was established to aid in a disentanglement operation.

The sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski 4 was manoeuvred closer to the whale and using specialised cutting equipment one cut was made to a 25mm fishing line wrapped around the whale and following the one cut all fishing line and the floatation buoys fell free from the whale.

The fishing line and floatation buoys were recovered.

The whale was monitored and appeared to be healthy but efforts to corral the whale out of the Ports entrance and back out to sea was not successful causing temporary disruption to shipping traffic.

Later, while still being observed by SAWDN crew and sea rescue crew on the scene for over an hour, sight of the whale was lost and the sea rescue craft returned to base.

A short while later a call was received from Transnet security officers informing that the whale had been spotted in a confined but barely accessible tanker terminal.

SAWDN and NSRI crew, on the sea rescue craft JLT Rescuer, returned to the scene to find the whale almost trapped between a tanker motor vessel and a jetty and efforts to corral the whale away from the area proved impossible.

The tanker motor vessel was due to depart on Wednesday and with the whale appearing to be healthy and not in any immediate danger, with enough space to swim around in, it was agreed to wait until the tanker departed to reassess the situation.

On Wednesday there were no further sightings of the whale and we are confident that the whale swam free from the confined area and has most likely departed back out to sea and we are cautiously optimistic in the success of this operation although Transnet authorities will keep a lookout.

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.


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