Entangled Humpback whale freed at Dassen Island

A 9 meter juvenile Humpback whale was rescued  4 nautical miles South East of Dassen Island after being entangled in 7 ropes yesterday, 23 January 2013.

One rope entangled the whale from the fluke, through the whale’s mouth and back, endangering the mammal’s ablity to eat in the future.

Members of the Department of Environmental Affairs – Oceans and Coasts, NSRI Yzerfontein and the SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) battled for more than four hours to cut away rope from the whale using specialised whale disentanglement equipment.

Mike Meyer of the Department of Environmental Affairs – Oceans and Coasts, NSRI Yzerfontien volunteer duty crew were activated just after 10 am following reports of a whale entangled in rope and seven floatation buoys on the West Coast.  The NSRI launched two rigid inflatable sea rescue craft Rotary Onwards and Spirit of Iffley.  On board were NSRI volunteers trained in whale disentanglement , volunteers of the SA Whale Disentanglement Network and members of the Department of Environmental Affairs – Oceans and Coasts.

Sea conditions were favourable with flat seas and light winds.  On arrival the group worked from the front of the head to the tail of the whale. They had to first cut away the line through the mouth of the whale, otherwise the whale’s ability to feed in the future could have been affected. 

A large floatation buoy was purposefully attached to the whale because the whale dived beneath the surface each time attempts were made at cutting away the rope close to its eye.  The large floatation buoy kept the whale buoyant enough and high enough in the water for the team to successfully cut away the rope.

“Numerous cuts had to be made to remove all seven ropes . The operation was completed at about 2.50 pm. While the whale was not seriously injured it appeared the whale initially believed it was still entangled. It took some convincing and coaxing from us for it to realise it was free and then it sped off appearing to be spritely and healthy.”

Last week a whale was entangled in rope at Table bay and was freed by SAWDN.


Photos will be posted later.

The SA Whale Disentanglement Network is a specialised network of volunteers set-up in 2006 to deal with these types of situations. It comprises volunteers – from NSRI, the Department of Environmental Affairs – Oceans and C oast, SA National Parks, Cape Nature, the SAP, various aquariums from around South aArica, the Natal Sharks Board, Bayworld, various other organisations and volunteers, with the support of the Dolphin Action and Protection group (DAPG). SAWDN covers the entire SA coastline.


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