By Riaan Grobler
A young whale calf was freed after becoming entangled in fishing rope lines near Millers Point between Simon’s Town and Cape Point on Saturday.
At 08:32 on Saturday morning, the SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) volunteers launched from Simonstown harbour aboard two NSRI Simonstown sea rescue craft, Spirit of Safmarine III and Spirit of Surfski II, following reports from a crew on a rigid inflatable boat and other eyewitnesses of the trapped whale.
“On arrival on the scene we found a Humpback whale calf entangled in rope around its body and fins and anchored to the sea bed. A larger whale was present, which we suspect to be a family member of the calf,” SAWDN spokesperson Craig Lambinon said.
“Quickly and methodically, the SAWDN technical crew, using the specialised cutting equipment, cut away at the rope wraps and we estimated ten to 12 cuts were made freeing the whale from the entanglement and freeing the whale from the entrapment.”
According to Lambinion, the whale appeared to be healthy and swam off strongly accompanied by the larger whale.
A little later the same day, another report came in by eyewitnesses who suspected that two whales appeared to be beaching near Boulders Beach, Simonstown.
“NSRI Simonstown was dispatched to investigate and they found two whales who appeared to be enjoying riding in the waves, but we could not confirm one of the whales was the calf that we had rescued earlier,” said Lambinon.
The SAWDN was established in 2006 in order to manage entangled whales using specialised equipment and is comprised of trained volunteers from the National Sea Rescue Institute, KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, Department of Environmental Affairs, Telkom Maritime Radio Services, Centre for Sustainable Oceans at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Nature, Mammal Research Institute, South African National Parks, South African Police Service, Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Cape Nature, Bayworld, various boat-based whale-watching and shark cage-diving operators, the rock lobster industry and the octopus industry. It is also fully supported by the Dolphin Action and Protection Group.
The SAWDN covers the entire South African coastline and has assisted 177 whales to date.