Port Elizabeth - A juvenile Southern Right whale and its two mates made their way back into the deep after SAWDN, the NSRI and several others worked quickly to free the whale entangled in fishing ropes, gear and buoys off Sea Point on Friday afternoon.
SAWDN (the SA Whale Disentanglement Network) said it received reports about 2.30pm on Friday from Francios Stapelberg of African Eagle Marine Eco Tours, about a whale entangled in a fishing rope, fishing gear and floatation buoys, 1.5 nautical miles off-shore of the Sea Point Pavilion.
SAWDN's Mike Meyer said that they diverted a sea rescue craft from another assignment to the area and it was confirmed to be an entangled 10-metre juvenile Southern Right whale and alerted the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) to assist with sea rescue craft.
Stapelberg had previously alerted SAWDN to the same whale in February but they were unable to locate the whale despite extensive searches. There were three other sightings of the same whale in February and March in Table Bay, Clifton and the West Coast but the whale could not be found on those occasions.
After finding the whale, Stapelberg returned with his passengers to the harbour and returned to find the whale a second time on Friday.
"We also requested assistance from the Cape Town Boating Network and they had a member, who is also an NSRI spotter, locate the whale using a telescope from a residence high up of Sea Point and a member who was launching his boat to go on a pleasure cruise had offered to assist in locating the whale.
"The NSRI Kommetjie sea rescue craft was launched accompanied by SAWDN volunteers," Meyer said, adding that there were six entanglements around the whale's tail which were pushing it below the surface, making it difficult to detect.
Meyer said that the whale was tired but that two other whales "remained by the entangled whale's side throughout the operation which always adds an element of emotion to these operations and we were determined to free the whale today".
"Kegging lines were attached to the entanglement and using the specialised cutting equipment we set about cutting the ropes with six ropes around the tail harbouring a clump of fishing gear and floatation buoys and three ropes around the fluke," he said.
Meyer said that during the operation the whale dived several times and that the proximity of the other two whales caused confusion about which whale they were working with at times, adding to the challenge.
"In an operation lasting about 20 minutes we were able to cut free all entangled lines and all of the ropes and gear and buoys were recovered for disposal," he said.
"The disentangled whale and its two companions have gone on their way and we are confident of (its) survival and we are truly delighted with the successful operation, Meyer said.
SAWDN commended Stapelberg for his involvement in locating this whale and all involved in the ongoing search for the whale and the operation.
African News Agency (ANA)