After a two-hour operation, SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) officials freed a 9-metre humpback whale that became entangled in fishing rope near Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape.
People aboard a passing container ship saw the whale caught in fishing rope lines and flotation buoys in the vicinity of Port Alfred and reported what they saw to the network on Sunday.
“On arrival on the scene, SAWDN and National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Port Alfred commenced a search but no sign of the whale could be located and at last light on Sunday evening, the search operation was suspended,” SAWDN spokesperson Craig Lambinon said in a statement.
On Monday, fishermen alerted the SAWDN when they spotted the entangled whale about 1.5 nautical miles offshore from the Kowie River Mouth.
“While the SAWDN cutting equipment and gear in Port Elizabeth was being arranged to be transported to Port Alfred, the SAWDN and NSRI Port Alfred members, in Port Alfred, fearing that the whale may move away from where it had been spotted, rigged makeshift disentanglement cutting equipment and makeshift disentanglement gear that was used in this disentanglement operation,” Lambinon said.
The whale was eventually located. Fishing rope was strung through and around the whale’s mouth and it was attached to fishing gear, crayfish traps and flotation buoys.
“In a sensitive and delicate operation lasting two hours, the team gently cut all entangled fishing rope and gear, successfully freeing the adult whale from the entanglement.
“While the whale appeared to be weak and tired the whale does appear to be healthy following this ordeal. SAWDN is confident that after this successful disentanglement operation, the whale will survive and gradually regain strength and health,” Lambinon said.