Whale-Friendly Coast 'Is a Priority'
Friday, 26 October 2007

The SA Whale Disentanglement Network says more and more giants of the ocean are becoming victims of rock lobster trappings and that solving this problem is a priority.

 

On Tuesday, marine rescue officers battled to free a 9,75m Southern Right whale entangled in nets.

Mike Meyer of Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) said initiating a workable strategy is in the pipeline between MCM and the Rock Lobster Association.

"We want to solve this problem as soon as possible," he said.

Meyer said the SA Whale Disentanglement Network, which includes the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), Police Sea Border Control and whale watchers, had rescued nine entangled whales since the start of the year.

Meyer explained that a weight was secured at the bottom of the rock lobster trap, with some slack on the ropes running down from the surface of the water.

Depending on the intensity of the tide, the ropes can form a wall at the surface of the water which makes it difficult for the whale to move freely. "As the tide gets higher, much rope can be found close to the surface," he said.

These animals do not dive very deeply, in fact they dive "slightly at the surface", and that is how they get knotted.

"When whales touch the rope they react by spinning and then find themselves entwined," he explained.

Meyer emphasised that operations could only be completed effectively with true team effort.

And this was evident in the team's fearless rescue of the Southern Right whale which was spotted 1.5 nautical miles off the Muizenberg coastline on Tuesday.

After less than one hour of wrestling with the mammal the team managed to cut the rope.

Secretary of the Rock Lobster Association, Peter Foley, said they were working closely with the Disentanglement Management Team to provide solutions.

"We will be securing weights on ropes to drop to about 10 metres below the surface of the water.

"We are busy preparing the weights and putting this into practice," he said.

 

Cape Argus (Cape Town)
10 October 2007

Jade Witten
Cape Town