Whales untangled from shark nets

2010-06-25 00:00

TWO humpback whales, a mother and a newborn calf, had a lucky escape when they were released alive from the shark nets at Rocky Bay, Park Rynie, yesterday.

Debbie Hargreaves, spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board (KZNSB), said that just after 7 am a Sharks Board skipper servicing the shark nets at Scottburgh received a call from a commercial fisherman to say that the whales were caught in the Rocky Bay nets.

“On arriving at Rocky Bay a few minutes later, the KZNSB staff found commercial fishermen on site, attempting to disentangle the whales. The KZNSB and the fishermen were jointly able to free both animals.”

Hargreaves said a crew member on one of the boats said he thought he had seen a second calf and that it was dead, but a search did not reveal any sign of it.

She said the local humpback whale population is estimated to be growing at between eight percent and 10% per year, increasing the potential for whale entanglement in shark nets and other fishing gear.

The sharks board is a member of the South African Whale Disentanglement Network and has specially trained and equipped teams for this task.

“On first receiving the report of the entangled whales at Rocky Bay, one of these teams was dispatched but was recalled because the animals were released prior to its arrival,” said Hargreaves.

She said the KZNSB appreciates the assistance of the fishermen in the release, but warned members of the public against entering the water in such circumstances. “The danger of drowning or sustaining serious injury is high…”

THE KZN Sharks Board reported yesterday that it conducted a flight yesterday from Virginia to Hole in the Wall on the Wild Coast to check out sardine activity.

Mike Anderson-Reade, head of operations at KZNSB, said the flight was “very disappointing, with the only sardine activity being seen about a kilometre off Port St Johns, where we observed a few thousand common dolphins and hundreds of gannets feeding on what appeared to be thin shoals of sardines”. Activity was less that expected.

“A point of interest is that the north-to-south current line, which is normally about eight kilometres out to sea at this time, has moved inshore to less than a kilometre in places on the upper Wild Coast. We suspect that this has influenced the movement of sardines. At this stage the run looks more and more to hopefully occur sometime in July.”

Officers on the flight spotted 53 humpback whales, a southern right whale and a brydes whale between Durban and Coffee Bay.

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