Posted by: The ocean update | July 26, 2015

Whale trapped in Sunny Cove rescued (South Africa)

A Whale Disentanglement Network volunteers, using the specialized whale disentanglement equipment, and supported by the two NSRI sea rescue boats, successfully disentangled a young adult humpback whale. (Andrew Ingram, NSRI)

A Whale Disentanglement Network volunteers, using the specialized whale disentanglement equipment, and supported by the two NSRI sea rescue boats, successfully disentangled a young adult humpback whale. (Andrew Ingram, NSRI)

July 26th, 2015. Cape Town – In a race against time, rescuers worked throughout the night to save a whale entangled in ropes just off Sunny Cove in Fish Hoek.

Rescuers from various authorities assisted in the operation on Saturday night, the SA Whale Disentanglement Network said on Sunday.
“The eight-metre Humpback whale was anchored and trapped to the sea bed by whelk trap lines,” said spokesperson Craig Lambinon in a statement.  Whelks are a type of sea snail.

Lambinon said on Saturday morning, a jogger on the beach noticed that the whale did not appear to be moving.  While, at first, it appeared that the whale might simply be basking in the sun, by afternoon, it became apparent the whale was in trouble.

The jogger then contacted sea rescue authorities whom arrived on the scene via various sea crafts.

“The lines between the whelk traps…had snarled around the whale’s tail effectively meaning that the whale’s tail [bottom side] was trapped under water to the sea bed,” said Lambinon.

“Only the front of the whale could reach the surface for air and most likely with difficulty”.

Lambinon said time then became an issue as with high tide approaching, the whale would become submerged and thus be unable to breath.

“Now with the whale appearing to be tired and lethargic, it became a race against time to try to cut the rope from the tail – which was at least six to seven meters below the surface – and out of reach of the specialised cutting poles.”

During the “delicate operation,” rescuers used specialised hooks to try and snare the rope away from the tail.

The operation continued into the night.

“At this stage, the whelk trap company, on hearing of the desperate situation, dispatched two of their craft,” said Lambinon.

“They began to haul up their whelk trap lines in an awesome effort to try to find the line responsible for snaring the whale.”

Lambinon said the whale then finally began moving.

Eventually a line trapping the whale was also cut by the rescuers.

“Although [only] cautiously optimistic, it appears that the joint effort freed the whale successfully.”

On Sunday, patrols were sent out as a precautionary measure.

“By midday…no sign of the whale was found and SAWDN remains optimistic that the effort last night saved the whale.”

Lambinon said all involved in the rescue operation were to be commended.  He also urged the public to contact the relevant authorities if they noticed whales in distress – rather than tackle the problem themselves.

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