At 09h30, Sunday, 01 October, the SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) were alerted by a passing vessel reporting to be 45 nautical off-shore between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay where they had happened upon a whale entangled in rope with the whale appearing to be anchored to the sea bed.
The NSRI Plettenberg Bay sea rescue craft Leonard Smith, accompanied by SAWDN volunteers and carrying the SAWDN specialised cutting equipment, launched from Plettenberg Bay at 12h20.
The NSRI Knysna sea rescue craft Colorpress Rescuer launched from Knysna at 12h20 to respond as a back-up safety boat.
Both sea rescue craft arrived at the GPS coordinates (that were provided by the skipper of the passing vessel) at the same time at 13h50 where SAWDN volunteers found a juvenile approximately 14 meter Humpback whale anchored to the sea bed with fishing rope around its tail and a single floatation buoy.
The SAWDN volunteers got to work and the line around the tail was cut which freed the whale from the anchored entrapment and then the floatation buoy was cut.
All lines and the buoy cut free were recovered.
The cutting operation took 20 minutes before the whale was freed from the rope and buoys and the whale swam off confidently and we are confident that the operation has been successful and the whale appears to be healthy.
This is the furthest out to sea that a SAWDN operation has been conducted.
The South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) was established in 2006 in order to manage entangled whales using specialised equipment and is comprised of trained SAWDN volunteers from the – National Sea Rescue Institute, Kwa-Zulu 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 Services, Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Bayworld, various Boat based Whale Watching and Shark Cage Diving Operators, the Rock Lobster Industry and the Octonpus Industry and fully supported by the Dolphin Action and Protection Group.