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Two humpback whale calves were washed ashore at eManzimtoti and Scottburgh beaches in unrelated incidents on Tuesday.
KZN Sharks Board (KZNSB) spokeswoman, Debbie Hargreaves, said: “We received a call from the eManzimtoti beach manager saying a small whale was entangled in the shark nets at that beach. A KZNSB boat deployed to find a 4m humpback whale calf that, unfortunately, was dead. The calf was towed offshore.”
The Sharks Board later received a call from the beach manager at Scottburgh to say a small whale was stranded alive on the rocky shore near the caravan park.
Heargreaves said Sharks Board staff found no evidence that shark nets had been involved in the stranding.
The Scottburgh animal was also a humpback whale calf, measuring just over 4m.
“Members of the public tried unsuccessfully to return the animal to the water, but it would probably have had little chance of survival,” said Hargreaves.
Since the turn of the century, the local humpback whale population has recovered well since exploitation of the species ended, Hargreaves said.
She cited a 2011 study by whale scientist Dr Ken Findlay that showed the humpback whale population migrating past SA’s east coast to be growing at between 9 percent and 11.5 percent a year, which is close to the maximum rate that is biologically possible.
However, as the local whale populations grow so does the potential for stranding to occur and also for the entanglements in fishing gear, including shark nets and safety gear.
She urged the public to contact the Sharks Board at 031 566 0400 to inform them of any marine mammal entanglement.