A juvenile humpback whale was rescued on Tuesday afternoon. The whale had become tangled in rope from fishing traps.
Andy Marshall from the National Parks and Wildlife Service said a Harrington couple was bushwalking and noticed splashing and buoys floating in the ocean about 300m offshore from Indian Head in the Crowdy Bay National Park.
They attended the caretaker’s office at the Diamond Head camp grounds at around 9.30am and the NPWS rescue team was dispatched.
Mr Marshall, Col Waters and Luke Winters launched the inflatable rescue vessel from the beach at Diamond Head shortly after 12pm.
The crew were joined by Port Macquarie Marine Rescue on scene shortly after 1pm. The NPWS officers worked from their boat to free the whale.
“The rope was entangled around its tail and was anchored to the sea floor,” Mr Marshall said.
“We were able to work with our equipment on long poles to free the tail. We don’t get in the water with the whale and recommend that other people don’t either. They are powerful animals.”
The crews followed the whale a short distance out to sea before returning to shore at around 2.30pm.
NPWS Senior Wildlife Officer, Susan Crocetti said whale disentanglement specialists responded swiftly.
“About 100 metres of nylon rope and seven, six-inch floats from fishing gear were removed in a delicate but dangerous operation,” she said.
“Congratulations to everyone involved as without intervention the whale would most likely have died.
“Assisting entangled whales is a dangerous exercise requiring specialist training.
“The NPWS Whale Disentanglement Teams undertake rigorous training exercises to prepare for these types of incidents during the annual migration.
“An adult humpback is the equivalent in weight to 11 elephants and their tails are extremely powerful which is why only specially trained staff should attempt a rescue.
“NPWS will consider the behaviour of the whale and safety concerns such as weather conditions before attempting a disentanglement response as the safety of the team is paramount.
“As whale numbers increase there is a greater likelihood that some of these animals may become entangled in fishing gear or marine debris, wash up onto our beaches, or come in contact with boats,” Ms Crocetti said.
NPWS leads large whale disentanglement responses, working closely with a number of partners including ORRCA, Department of Primary Industries, Roads and Maritime Safety Authority, Marine Rescue, Water Police, Surf Life Saving NSW, and commercial operators.
Anyone who sees a distressed or entangled whale should not attempt to free it but call the 24 hour ORRCA hotline on 9415 3333 or the OEH Enviroline 131 555.
Watch the video of Andy Marshall explaining the details of the whale and its rescue: