SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) volunteers were activated on Tuesday morning following reports from a fishing boat involved in a fishing competition of a whale discovered to be entangled in rope, fishing lines and floatation buoys off-shore of Noordhoek Beach, Port Elizabeth.
“Private craft from the Noordhoek Ski-boat club launched to assist and the boat Blue Pearl stood by at the whale, a 10 meter Humpback whale, found approximately three quarters of a nautical mile off-shore of Noordhoek beach and swimming freely but entangled in rope, fishing lines and floatation buoys, and appearing to be healthy, and Blue Pearl monitored the whales movements pending the arrival of SAWDN,” said Craig Lambinon, spokesperson at the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).
“SAWDN volunteers launched aboard the NSRI Port Elizabeth sea rescue craft Eikos Rescuer IV while the NSRI Port Elizabeth sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski IV was towed to Noordhoek and launched at the Noordhoek ski-boat club slip way.
“The Noordhoek Ski-boat club private boat Sea-Levie volunteered to launch to assist and they ferried some of the more bulky SAWDN specialised cutting equipment to the scene.”
Mike Meyer, head of SAWDN (and of the Department of Environmental Affairs – Oceans and Coasts) was contacted to provide advice to the SAWDN volunteers who were involved in the operation.
“On arrival on the scene the whale was found with wraps around the Caudal Peduncle but the whale, swimming freely, made it difficult for the teams to get close enough to effectively use the specialised cutting equipment and two kedging buoys were tied to the wraps in an effort to slow the whale down,” described Lambinon.
“During attempts to free the whale the whale continued to dive out of reach forcing the team to tie a trailing line to the wraps (attached to the sea rescue craft Sprit of Surfski IV) to further slow down the whales movement. Once secure the SAWDN volunteers were able to get in close enough to the whale, now moving at about 4 knots, to begin cutting with the specialised poles and specialised cutting equipment and following a successful operation all lines were cut free and the lines and the floatation buoys were recovered and the whale swam off appearing to be healthy and strong with only some cuts from the rope to the Caudal Peduncle but appearing to have suffered minimal injury from the ordeal.”
The operation, which began around 07:00, was completed by 11h00.
SAWDN express gratitude to the NSRI Port Elizabeth sea rescue craft and the NSRI Port Elizabeth sea rescue crew and to the private boats Sea-Levie and Blue Pearl from the Noordhoek ski-boat club who all assisted SAWDN in this successful operation.