The SA Whale Disentanglement Network is on alert over the incidence of whales getting caught in nets. Picture: Supplied
The SA Whale Disentanglement Network is on alert over the incidence of whales getting caught in nets. Picture: Supplied

Rise in humpback whales entanglements partly due to their growing numbers

By Sukaina Ishmail Time of article published Mar 11, 2020

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Cape Town - With the number of whales spotted on the coast increasing, more entanglements have also occurred.

The SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) has already assisted 199 entangled whales to date.

SAWDN reported that among the three humpback whales found, one was entangled in four ropes and with a floatation buoy around its right flipper alongside Dassen Island.

The second humpback was off-shore of Dassen Island entangled in five ropes wrapped around its tail, including floatation buoys. The third humpback was found in Oudekraal with a fishing rope and floatation buoys entangled around its body, trailing a 50m fishing rope behind it.

Two Oceans Aquarium education foundation chief executive Maryke Musson said that more whales were being seen in the ocean, especially humpbacks. The chances of entanglements had therefore increased.

The whales were coming much closer to shore and were more likely to encounter lost fishing gear compared with when offshore.

Environmentalist and founder of the Seafari app, Alex Vogel, said decreasing fish stocks were increasing fishing efforts to satisfy the growing demand. This led to more material being found in the ocean. The whale population increase also meant there was a greater likelihood that whales would come into contact with these fishing materials.

“The current level of entanglements is therefore not surprising, but is significantly higher than the one to three entanglements SAWDN would usually deal with in this area during this early part of the year,” Vogel said.

He said the whales would often play with floating kelp and it was thought that they enjoyed the sensation of the kelp moving over their skin. So when they came across a rope and tried to do the same thing they could easily get entangled.

Vogel said the situation of whales becoming entangled had been exacerbated by the fact that there were up to 500 humpback whales in the Dassen Island area less than a week ago, but these animals were usually gone from the West Coast in early March.

* #SeaTheBiggerPicture organisation will have a beach clean-up on Saturday, March 28. It will take place at Fish Hoek Beach at 8.30am to remove waste that could enter the ocean and threaten marine life.


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Cape Argus

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