The SA Whale Disentanglement Network was activated yesterday around 10am following eye witness reports of a large female humpback whale and her calf entangled in fishing rope and flotation buoys just off Seabreeze and travelling in the direction of St Francis Bay.
An NSRI Port Elizabeth sea rescue craft accompanied by SAWDN volunteers and a SAWDN volunteer whale watching boat responded to the incident.
Once the teams arrived on the scene they found the whale cow moving swiftly and entangled in two wraps of fishing rope which were still attached to two buoys.
An NSRI St Francis Bay sea rescue craft also responded after the two whales were reported to be heading fast towards St Francis Bay and the Port Elizabeth SAWDN volunteers were joined by a Jeffreys Bay SAWDN member.
The teams met roughly one nautical mile off the coastline of Van Stadens where the two whales were located.
Two kegging lines were attached to the rope trailing from the whale and an additional line was run to one of the NSRI rescue crafts to trail behind the whale in an effort to slow her down. This proved successful and gave the SAWDN members the opportunity to get close enough to the whale to intervene.
Using a rescue knife, the SAWDN volunteers cut one of the ropes around the whale’s body and then pulled on the remaining rope, which came free. All of the rope as well as the two buoys were recovered.
Thanks has been extended to the members of the public who flagged the struggling whale pair, leading to their rescue. After the whale was freed, her and her calf were seen continuing on their journey and even spotted breaching by the onboard monitor.
The rescue operation ended at 2.38pm.
Incidents of whales becoming entangled in fishing ropes as well as octopus traps have not only become more frequent in recent years, especially in False Bay, but have also become a deep concern for locals.
If you would like to find out more or sign the petition to remove octopus traps which have been trapping whales frequently, read more here.