Gansbaai Courant

Blog: The South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN)

Published: 17 September 2015
By:Mike Meyer

At 12h15, Tuesday, 08th September, The South African Whale Disentanglement Network was activated following eye-witness reports of a whale entangled off-shore of the Cape Point Lighthouse. SAWDN volunteers responded aboard the NSRI Simonstown sea rescue craft SPIRIT OF SAFMARINE III and SPIRIT OF SURFSKI II. 

Head of SAWDN, Mike Meyer (Department of Environmental Affairs - Oceans and Coasts), said: "On arrival on the scene at around 14h35, off-shore of Cape Point Lighthouse, the 9 meter juvenile Humpback whale was found to be entangled in 4 ropes appearing to be anchored to traps on the sea bed. 

An extensive disentanglement operation progressed, using the specialised disentanglement equipment, and one rope was able to be cut enabling the whale to breath easier but despite tethering a kegg (floatation buoy) to ropes attached to the whales tail, in an effort to lift the tail closer to the surface and in reach of the specialised cutting equipment, three ropes remained out of reach and further complicated by the thickness of the ropes and the weight. A local fishing vessel, PUFFIN, that operates similar types of fishing traps, although these particular traps not belonging to the vessel, was in the area at the time and they volunteered to assist.

Crew aboard PUFFIN, using their heavy lifting equipment, were able to lift rope attached to traps from one end of the group of traps effectively lifting the whale to the sea surface without causing any harm and allowing the SAWDN volunteers to get within reach of the entanglement lines. In this case PUFFIN were able to gently bring the whale to the sea surface and up against the fishing vessel and the SAWDN volunteers got to work and all remaining lines were successfully cut and the whale was released. The whale appeared healthy and swam away strongly and we are confident that this operation has been a huge success. The SAWDN volunteers, NSRI boat skippers and crew and the crew of PUFFIN are commended for their actions today. 

THE SOUTH AFRICAN WHALE DISENTANGLEMENT NETWORK IS A VOLUNTEER NETWORK THAT BEGAN IN 2006 MADE UP OF VOLUNTEERS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT - OCEANS AND COASTS, NSRI, TELKOM MARITIME RADIO SERVICES, THE DOLPHIN ACTION AND PROTECTION GROUP, SA NATIONAL PARKS, THE SA POLICE SERVICES, RESEARCH ORGANISATIONS, THE NATAL SHARKS BOARD, TABLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARKS, WEST COAST WILDLIFE RESCUE AND A HOST OF VARIOUS MARINE AND ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS. 

Picture Mike Meyer/SAWDN

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