2 Humpback Whales Saved

An hours long rescue operation saved two whales. Photos: Marnette Meyer for SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN).

An hours long rescue operation saved two whales. Photos: Marnette Meyer for SA Whale Disentanglement Network.

Melkbosstrand NSRI members helped SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) and NSRI Yzerfontein rescue two humpback whales on Tuesday. The whales were entangled in fishing lines, ropes and flotation buoys near Dassen Island.

The first rescue operation
Locals Gerrit Niemand, Hein Kohne, Belinda Speed, Marnette Meyer and Robert de Souza took part in a tricky hours long rescue operation. The rescue party had to cope not only with the fishing lines, ropes and floatation buoys trapping the whales, but also with rough sea and a strong wind.

rescue 3According to NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon a skipper of a fishing boat alerted SAWDN to the whales’ plight around 6.30 am. Lambinon says, “When we arrived on the scene we found an 11 m humpback whale swimming freely 2 nautical miles south of Dassen Island, with one rope and one floatation buoy entangled around its tail.”

The swift speed at which the whale swam and dived made it hard to cut the rope attached to it.
The rescuers attempted to slow the whale down by tying a kegging buoy to the rope. “The whale did not tire out as we had hoped,” Lambinon reports. “The decision was taken to get as close to the whale when it surfaced and to use the opportunity to cut at the line using our specialized cutting equipment as the whale surfaced.”
Eventualy a “large portion of the rope was cut free and the floatation buoy also came loose.” A small rope still remained attached to the whale. This did not appear to harm the whale or impede its swimming.

Foto 1The second rescue operation and problems
1.5 Nautical miles south-west of Dassen Island a second whale was trapped to the ocean floor. “This 8 m humpback whale had rope through its mouth running to its tail,” Lambinon says. The line of rope ran to an anchored lobster trap.

In an attempt to rescue the whale, “a kegging buoy was attached to the tail section of the rope, which lay deep under water. As the rope started to lift specialized cutting equipment was used to cut the tail line free.” Then the remainder of the rope was cut free, “completely freeing the whale of all rope and buoys.” The rescue party escorted the whale through the lobster trap lines out into open water.

Report of a third trapped whale
SAWDN also received a report of a third entangled whale. They searched for it, but could not find it. They did find a loose floatation buoy in the vicinity of where the whale had been sighted. According to Lambinon, “We suspect the whale may have freed itself but we will continue to monitor for any further sightings and react accordingly.”




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