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PORT ELIZABETH - South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) and National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) volunteers have disentangled a whale carcass from fishing nets and towed it to the deep sea off Port Elizabeth, the SAWDN said on Sunday.

SAWDN volunteers were activated at 8.38am on Saturday morning following reports of a whale carcass entangled in fishing nets at a purse seiner (fishing boat) about seven nautical miles off-shore of Port Elizabeth, SAWDN spokesman Craig Lambinon said.

NSRI Port Elizabeth duty crew were activated and SAWDN volunteers accompanied three NSRI Port Elizabeth sea rescue craft - Spirit of Toft, JLT Rescuer, and Spirit of Surfski 4 - and rendezvoused with the purse seiner that had the whale carcass in fishing nets, he said.

An operation commenced with the SAWDN volunteers using specialised cutting equipment in cooperation with NSRI coxswains and NSRI crew manoeuvering the sea rescue craft to assist in the disentanglement operation.

"On being released from fishing rope, but still entangled in fishing nets, the carcass of the 11 metre brydes whale was towed to Coega Harbour, with the permission of the harbour authorities, where an NSRI Port Elizabeth sea rescue vehicle assisted in the recovery of the carcass to a landing zone where the remainder of fishing nets were cut free of the whale and all rope and fishing nets were recovered."

NSRI sea rescue craft then towed the whale carcass to deep sea where it was released. The operation was completed just before 7pm.

SAWDN commended the NSRI for the assistance rendered in this lengthy operation, the Coega port authorities for their assistance, and the crew of the purse seiner who assisted.

Samples from the carcass were collected for the department of environment and marine scientists, Lambinon said.

African News Agency (ANA)