Keen-eyed fishermen ensure whale is freed from entanglement

A fishing vessel operating just off Cape Agulhas ensured that a Bryde's whale entangled in fishing ropes and floatation buoys was freed.

The vessel reported the entangled whale to the South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) on the morning of 22 May. 

Fishermen ensure whale is freed from entanglement

The fishing vessel Rusvic had remained on the scene to assist by monitoring the position and movement of the whale until the NSRI sea rescue craft, and SAWDN team arrived.

"At 07:58 on Friday 22 May, SAWDN (SA Whale Disentanglement Network) was alerted by a fishermen on the local commercial fishing vessel Rusvic of a Bryde's whale entangled in fishing ropes and floatation buoys South West off-shore of Agulhas lighthouse," Jaco Louw, SAWDN team leader, said.

"NSRI Station 30 Agulhas were alerted, and the sea rescue craft Agulhas Rescuer was launched at Struisbaai harbour, accompanied by SAWDN volunteers and SAWDN specialised disentanglement equipment, and headed towards Agulhas.

"Our NSRI sea rescue vehicle was dispatched to Agulhas beach towing the sea rescue craft I&J Rescuer 4 which was launched at Suiderstrand and met up with Agulhas Rescuer behind the surf line and then both sea rescue craft proceeded to deeper water to the whale which was found off-shore 3 nautical miles South West of Agulhas lighthouse."

Fishermen keep an eye on entangled creature

Rescuers approached the whale and determined it to be an adult 9 meter Bryde's whale with buoys and ropes attached in wraps around the tail.

"The whale was moving freely in the water, and our SAWDN team attached larger kegging buoys to the existing buoys to provide drag to slow the whale down," Louw added.

"The sea rescue craft followed the whale for an hour giving the whale a chance to tire sufficiently to slow down enough to give our SAWDN team the opportunity to get close enough to the whale to safely begin cutting at the ropes using the SAWDN specialised cutting equipment.

"Cutting of the ropes commenced and we were able to cut the ropes around the tail releasing all of the ropes and floatation buoys in two cuts and once freed from the burden of the ropes and the floatation buoys the whale then immediately swam free and also hastened in pace appearing to be relieved to be free from the burden.

"All the ropes and buoys were recovered onto the sea rescue craft."

In good health

After two and a half hours the rescuers were able to free the whale from entanglement.

"The whale was monitored for a while and seen to be swimming freely, and strongly we are confident that this operation has been successful," Louw noted.

"The sea rescue craft headed back to Struisbaai harbour, and both were recovered, refuelled and prepared at the NSRI Agulhas sea rescue base for the next operation.

"We commend the skipper and crew of the fishing vessel Rusvic who were willing to stay with the whale and therefore they could relay the correct updated position of the whale."