Getting caught in fishing gear and ropes can be life threatening for whales. If they are not disentangled, their long-term survival outlook is bleak. Many have succumbed to infection or their movements were severely restricted by the tangled lines. Some whales can actually drown if so weighted down.

This past Monday off the coast of Australia, there were actually 2 Humpback whales that had gotten entangled by discarded fishing gear and had to be rescued. The first whale was spotted on Sunday night dragging buoys along with it, near Seal Rocks.

Marine Rescue Forster Tuncurry and volunteer marine mammal rescue service ORRCA were called in at about 8am on Monday by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to search for the humpback. A NPWS airplane was also sent from Sydney to help search the area.

The four man Marine Rescue crew, skippered by Ray Mazurek, set out to find the whale but originally found nothing. It wasn't until they were coming back in that the whale was spotted near Crowdy Head. Ray Mazurek described the situation when they first arrived at the scene.

“The floats were what you could see on the water, but it was trailing a couple of hundred feet of line and the cray pot itself underneath and you couldn’t see any of that from the surface. It was dragging a lot of weight, and if that line was caught up in a reef or whatever, the whale wouldn’t be able to come up for air and it would drown.”

The rescue operation, which brought the Marine Rescue crew and several others within feet of the whale, was a dangerous operation, as entangled whales are often already distressed and can be quite aggressive. The crews approached the 10m whale in an inflatable rescue boat and used hook-shaped knives on long poles to loop over and saw through the ropes to free it.

Shortly after the whale was freed, word came that another whale was spotted entangled off Old Bar. The Marine Rescue crew headed south and found a smaller humpback in exactly the same situation as the first and they also successfully freed that whale.

“The rescue of two whales within a few hours of each other is phenomenal. I want to thank everyone involved. It was an amazing coordinated operation with such a positive outcome," according to NPWS acting Great Lakes area manager Rachel Kempers.

Ray Mazurek said it was satisfying to be involved in an operation to get the whales swimming off free and healthy again. His rescue crew finally made it back to land about 6pm, after nine hours at sea. “We set out thinking it would probably be a training run and were caught out without any food on board,” he said. “We won’t be doing that again.”

The NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service) has called on fishermen to be careful with their fishing equipment and to make every endeavor to retrieve gear they lose while at sea. If fishermen find loose fishing rope or nets, they are asked to return it to shore and see to its proper disposal.

Responses to "2 Humpback Whales entangled in fishing gear were rescued on the same day off the coast of Australia (Photos)"

  1. Anonymous says:

    They should outlaw all nets they ki;; so meny fish and other animals its a shame. They have over fished our seas anyway there should be a world wide stop on nets for 5 years and give the fish a chance to re coup. This is so upsetting when I see those beautiful whales in those nets thanl God for these men who risk there lives to free them. Job well done gentlemen. Judith

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