Trained volunteers were kept busy on Wednesday morning as they freed a playful whale entangled in fishing rope off the coast of Cape Town.
Bantry Bay, Cape Town – Paddlers had apparently first spotted the juvenile 9m southern right whale off Bantry Bay on Tuesday night, said SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) spokesperson Craig Lambinon.
Both paddlers and beachgoers had reported seeing the whale on Wednesday morning and a National Sea Rescue Institute craft was launched to assist.
“The whale, appearing to be healthy and able to move freely, had fishing rope around the front flippers, over its back and wrapped between the two flippers,” said Lambinon.
Two small flotation buoys were attached to the four ropes.
The team attempted to cut the rope free but the whale kept moving out of reach of the long cutting poles towards deeper water.
Lambinon said that although the sea was calm, there was poor water visibility and the whale dived beneath the surface at intervals.
The volunteers managed to attach a lead rope to the whale so that they could follow it.
It stopped in a bed of kelp about five nautical miles (9.2km) off Three Anchor Bay.
SAWDN head, Mike Meyer, who was on the rescue craft, told News24 that it looked as though the whale was playing with a piece of kelp.
As the whale was calm and friendly, the crew were able to get close enough to begin cutting the rope without hindrance.
The team believed it managed to cut all four ropes before they lost visibility as a dense fog started rolling in.
“There is the possibility that one rope remained and although that rope is not hindering the whale’s freedom of movement, SAWDN are prepared to respond to any further sightings made of the whale in the area and once visibility improves, to examine if a rope remains,” said Lambinon.
Meyer urged members of the public to report sightings rather than try to assist whale themselves. “This is dangerous work and we have the right equipment,” he said.