A FORTY tonne whale was entangled in fishing ropes kilometres off Tacking Point on Sunday (July 3).
The whale was first observed around 11am in distress by a skipper on it’s way back from the south.
Residents alerted the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) which then forwarded the observation to National Parks and Wildlife in Port Macquarie. They were thanked for their quick response which ultimately saved the whale’s life.
Ranger Andy Marshall said with the help of a local whale watching company, a crew and support vessel departed from shore at 12.45pm.
“It took an hour to reach the whale who took a dramatic easterly turn off Tacking Point; we caught up to the animal around Crescent Head. It was towing a huge length of rope and a couple of floats attached to two plights.
“The floats were 12 inches in diameter but that didn’t slow the whale down. It was about 14-15 metres in length and together with an escort was travelling at around four to five knots,” he said.
The whale became defensive but National Parks and Wildlife secured the control equipment to the rope to slow the whale down and tire it out, ensuring a safer rescue.
“The kegs were probably 250 metres behind the whale and slowed it down however as we approached it became quite aggressive which is a natural response,” he said.
However the weight from the kegs was enough to rip the tangled line off the whale freeing it.
“We didn’t have to get out our knives to cut the rope which is very lucky for us because it made our job a lot easier. The whale was entangled by a complete accident.
“The ropes were nylon with attached fishing hooks. There was in excess of 500 metres of rope. It’s a common misconception in the public that whales only get caught in nets when most of the time they are entangled by fishing rope and traps,” Mr Marshall said.
He predicted, as there was fresh bait on the hooks, the whale had been tangled for about two or three days and picked up the rope somewhere between Sydney and Port Macquarie.