Posted by: The ocean update | January 22, 2016

Watch Yzerfontein whales disentangled (South Africa)

A GoPro camera gets knocked off as volunteers try to untangle rope from a whale. Credit: NSRI 

A GoPro camera gets knocked off as volunteers try to untangle rope from a whale. Credit: NSRI

January 22nd, 2016 (Hadlee Simons). Volunteers in the Western Cape managed to successfully help two whales that were caught up in fishing lines.

Volunteers from the SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) launched from Yzerfontein harbour on Wednesday in response to eyewitness reports of tangled whales, the NSRI said.

The whales were located near Dassen Island.

“On arrival on the scene a search commenced and a 7.5 metre juvenile Humpback Whale was found, three nautical miles South South West of the initial reported sightings. The whale, despite having freedom of movement, was found to be heavily entangled in multiple thick fishing rope and lines with a rope line running through the whale’s mouth, a rope line around the right flipper, and multiple rope lines wrapped tightly around the tail stock,” the NSRI said in a statement.

“In a difficult and delicate disentanglement operation, the rope line through the mouth was cut first. Then the rope line around the right fin was cut and after that, multiple cuts to rope line around the tail stock,” the institute continued.

“It appears that the rope lines have mostly been cut free but it is strongly suspected that some rope line remaining will fall away from the whales natural movement. The whale appears healthy and SAWDN are satisfied that the whale will survive.”

The volunteers then found the second whale, an 11-metre-long Humpback Whale with rope around its tail and left flipper.

“A disentanglement operation commenced, hampered by the whale being trapped to rope line running to fishing gear anchored to the sea floor at a steep angle, with the whale barely able to surface for air. Two floatation buoys were attached to the left flipper,” the organisation continued.

“The rope line causing the entrapment was cut first and although the whale was free to move it appeared that the whale may have assumed that it was still trapped to the ocean floor as the whale remained in the same place not attempting to swim off. This gave SAWDN volunteers the opportunity to cut further rope line free.”

The second whale swam away strongly and the team was confident of its survival.

The volunteers lost a GoPro camera during the operation, but fortunately, a member of the public has donated a replacement.

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