On Tuesday 21 June at 11h35 members of the SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) were activated following reports from the Rock Lobster fishing vessel Biskop reporting a whale entangled in rock lobster netting, rope and floatation buoys approximately 2 nautical miles off-shore of Olifantsbospunt, Cape Point, and the whale appeared to be in distress.
Members of SAWDN responded to the scene aboard sea rescue craft and on arrival on-scene confirmed that approximately 3 ropes, netting and floatation buoys were entangled around the 11 meter Humpback whales right flipper and torso in front of the flipper.
Mike Meyer, of the SA Whale Disentanglement Network, said the animal appeared to be tired. Floatation Buoys attached to the rope were keeping the whale buoyant and one long rope entangled around the whales flipper was still attached to rock lobster traps on the sea bed which effectively had the whale trapped although the whale appeared to still have some limited movement.
The Department of Agriculture Forestries and Fisheries boat Victor Msenge arrived on-scene to assist and they launched a rigid inflatable rubber-duck to join the 3 NSRI sea rescue craft, from NSRI Kommetjie and NSRI Hout Bay, that were carrying the SA Whale Disentanglement Network members.
Members of SAWDN, carrying specialized whale disentangling equipment, (cutting knives – hooked shaped – on long poles) were able to cut all rope, netting and buoys off the whale and once free the whale swam off appearing to be healthy and comfortable. During the operation two larger adult whales appeared and it looked like they were giving some encouragement to the whale while our members cut the rope and netting off the affected whale. They hovered around and swam alongside the casualty whale while our members worked to cut the whale free, said Mike.