Posted by: The ocean update | March 23, 2011

Outlook for whale looks hopeful (New Zealand)

23/03/2011 (EMMA DANGERFIELD). An Encounter Kaikoura skipper has spotted the humpback whale untangled from ropes and a bouy off Kaikoura last week and says it looked to be OK.

The untangling team did not manage to remove all the rope during the rescue on Wednesday and was worried the whale would not survive.

But the Encounter skipper said he saw the whale on Sunday morning and the rest of the rope appeared to have fallen off.

It was the second whale in less than a month freed from ropes off the coast of Kaikoura.

The humpback was spotted south of Kaikoura, near the Haumuri Bluffs, by the crew on a Whale Watch boat, who raised the alarm about 1pm on Wednesday.

Department of Conservation ranger Mike Morrissey said he and four others trained in untangling got to the stricken whale about 3pm. They worked on the whale for three hours and did their best to save it but Mr Morrissey said the outcome did not look good.

The float and nylon rope around the tail had been there for some time and was embedded in the whale’s skin, he said.

“I’d say it had been on the whale for well over a year. The rope had wedged into its skin and the skin had grown over it. The whale was in really poor condition.”

It was difficult to say where the rope had originated, although Mr Morrissey said it did not look like material used by crayfishermen in New Zealand.

The whale was weak and did not put up much of a fight so the team could get close to the tail, although he said he was aware there is always the potential for a whale to put up one last fight. It was impossible to get all the entangled rope off for safety reasons, but they removed as much as they could.

“It bled quite a bit because it had wedged itself deep into the skin.”

The Whale Watch crew found the humpback feeding on krill with a pod of dolphins.

“I haven’t ever seen a humpback before feeding like that, on its side with its mouth open,” Mr Morrissey said.

“I’d say it was really starving.”

The whale was probably heading south to feed in Antarctic waters before migrating north, but it would be travelling against the tides.

“It’s real sad that you go to these things and the prognosis doesn’t look good.”

Despite the gloomy outlook, Mr Morrissey said the operation had gone well, with everyone working well as a team.

It was the first rescue for some of the team members, who had been through special training for removing ropes from whales.

It is less than a month since a group rescued a juvenile orca tangled in cray pot ropes off the coast just south of Kaikoura.

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