Whale rescued after becoming tangled, trapped in Port of Port Elizabeth

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A Humpback whale has been rescued.
A Humpback whale has been rescued.
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  • A juvenile humpback whale was found entangled off the coast of Gqeberha.
  • The whale was cut free from the fishing line and flotation buoys.
  • The whale was almost trapped in the Port of Port Elizabeth, but later managed to return to sea.

The South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) has freed a juvenile humpback whale off the coast of Gqeberha.

On Tuesday morning, volunteers from the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Gqeberha sea rescue base launched aboard two NSRI sea rescue craft following eyewitness reports of a whale entangled in fishing rope lines just outside the Port of Port Elizabeth.

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In the port, they found a 7m juvenile humpback whale entangled in fishing rope wrapped with two flotation buoys attached.

"The whale, with freedom of movement, was found to be docile," SAWDN Gqeberha coordinator Ian Gray said.

"A working line was established to aid in a disentanglement operation."

One sea rescue craft was manoeuvred closer to the whale and, using specialised cutting equipment, a cut was made to the 25mm fishing line wrapped around the whale. Following the one cut, the whale was freed of all the fishing line and flotation buoys.

Confined

The fishing line and flotation buoys were recovered.

"The whale was monitored and appeared to be healthy, but efforts to corral the whale out of the port's entrance and back out to sea were not successful, causing temporary disruption to shipping traffic. Later, while still being observed by SAWDN crew and sea rescue crew on the scene for over an hour, sight of the whale was lost and the sea rescue craft returned to base," Gray said.

However, shortly afterward a call was received that the whale had been spotted in a confined and barely accessible tanker terminal.

SAWDN and NSRI crew returned to the scene to find the whale almost trapped between a tanker motor vessel and a jetty. Efforts to corral the whale away from the area proved impossible.

"The tanker motor vessel was due to depart on Wednesday, and with the whale appearing to be healthy and not in any immediate danger, with enough space to swim around in, it was agreed to wait until the tanker departed to reassess the situation," Gray said.

"On Wednesday, there were no further sightings of the whale, and we are confident that the whale swam free from the confined area and has most likely departed back out to sea."

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