On Wednesday, 2 February, at about 7:35am, the NSRI Yzerfontein crew, SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) volunteers were called out following eye-witness reports of a whale entangled in fishing rope lines in the vicinity South of Dassen Island on the West Coast.
The NSRI Yzerfontein launched the sea rescue craft Rescue 34, accompanied by SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) volunteers, and on arrival on the scene following an extensive search only one whale, a 9.5 meter juvenile Humpback whale was located.
According to NSRI, the entanglement was seen to be wrapping around the body and through the mouth. The whale continued to dive, taking the gear down for 2-5 min at a time and the animal had to be located again. It was anchored to the bottom, but had a long line attached giving the whale a large area to move but not free-swimming but locked to the bottom by one trap, a long rope, and a buoy.
The rope seemed to be wrapped twice around the body behind the dorsal fin with one wrap through the mouth and over the bonnet. There was a long line trailing behind the whale attached to a trap.
No wraps were seen on the tail or caudal peduncle.
As the whale did not spend much time at the surface, the grappling iron was used to hook the trailing line and attached a kegging buoy approximately 30m behind the whale. This would ensure the trap is secured once the animal is freed.
“We then move closer to the whale by pulling ourselves forward on the entanglement line. The grappling iron was removed if it was needed again. Another kegging buoy was then placed about 5 meters from the entanglement position. This prevented the whale from diving again”, says the NSRI Yzerfontein rescue.
“Our NSRI Yzerfontein rescue craft Rescue 34 then attempted to approach the head of the whale several times so that the first cut could be made, but the whale kept avoiding the vessel. The whale was given time to relax and again the vessel was positioned to ensure the whale surfacing close enough for a cut to be made. This worked, and the whale surfaced next to Rescue 34 and one cut was made to the line exiting the mouth at 12:05pm. The vessel moved away to reposition for the next cut, but it was then noted that all the entanglement released from the whale and the whale swam away free of all gear”, further added the NSRI crew.
All equipment was recovered and the whale swam away appearing to be strong and healthy.