Plettenberg Whale
Photo Credit: Andre Estevez from Pexels

The South African Whale Disentanglement Network completed a time-sensitive rescue of an 11-metre Humpback Whale, untangling it before it got the chance to swim away.


West Coast, South Africa (17 December 2021) – The South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) has played a vital role in saving 205 whales from fishing nets and lines to date. The team comprises several organisations, ensuring every whale found in distress is freed.

The team use specialised equipment and spend hours working to untangle the poor creatures caught up in man-made pollution.

The most recent rescue took place on the 14th of December, 2021.

Photo Credit: NSRI

“At 07h15, Tuesday, 14 December, SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) volunteers were activated following reports of a whale entangled in fishing rope that appeared to be anchored to the sea bed off-shore South West of Dassen Island.

SAWDN volunteers and NSRI Melkbosstrand crew joined NSRI Yzerfontein crew at the NSRI Yzerfontein sea rescue base, and the sea rescue craft Rescue 34 was launched.

On arrival on the scene at 10h00, 9.7 nautical miles from mainland, in calm seas with a light wind, an 11 meter Humpback whale was found entangled in fishing rope and 2 floatation buoys with the fishing rope anchored to the seabed. The whale had good movement and was able to surface for air at will but appeared to be unsettled.

4 wraps of rope were found with 2 of the wraps of rope around the tail and a wrap of rope around the body.

SAWDN crew attached 2 kegging buoys to the rope wraps in an effort to assist to keep the whale as close to the sea surface as possible but the whale shrugged the kegging buoys off with a thrash from its tail. A trailing line from the kegging buoys remained in place, trailing from the rope wrapped around the whales tail.

Using specialised cutting equipment the first cut, a double cut, released the wrap of rope around the body and this freed the whale from the entrapment to the seabed anchor.

The whale was now swimming freely and appeared to be less unsettled and picking up speed quickly.

The team moved in and with the sea rescue craft matching the whales swimming speed a further 2 cuts were made to the rope around the tail freeing the animal from the entanglement.

All of the fishing rope and buoys were recovered for disposal.

On arrival on the scene the whale had appeared to be unsettled, which at first threatened to hamper rescue efforts, but the care and gentle approach of the team ensured this successful operation and the whale swam away appearing to be healthy and we witnessed the whale joining a large pod of whales further out to sea.

SAWDN are confident that this operation, which completed at 14h54, was successful.”

The SAWDN was established in 2006 to manage entangled whales using specialised equipment. They work with highly trained volunteers from several networks, including:

  • National Sea Rescue Institute,
  • Telkom Maritime Radio Services,
  • KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board,
  • Department of Environmental Affairs,
  • 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,
  • Bayworld,
  • Various Boat Based Whale Watching and Shark Cage Diving Operators,
  • The Rock Lobster Industry and the Octopus Industry and,
  • Dolphin Action and Protection Group.

Sources: NSRI / SAWDN – Supplied
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Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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