National Parks and Wildlife and Port Macquarie Marine Rescue train in whale rescue and release techniques

THOUSANDS flock to headlands across the Hastings during whale season, but have you given any thought to the people charged with removing caught ropes and fishing line from the giants of the deep when they get into trouble?

Rangers from National Parks and Wildlife and volunteers with Port Macquarie Marine Rescue spent a day training on the Hastings River on May 15, fine-tuning techniques and strategies for whale disentanglement.

The yearly exercise is focused on procedures to keep both humans safe and minimise the stress on the whale if it is trapped.

Whale season has officially started and local National Parks and Wildlife ranger Andy Marshall said the training day is about keeping officers’ skills at peak performance.

"We have been doing this kind of training for many years now, but there are always new techniques that can be used to try and keep risks to a minimum," Mr Marshall said.

"We have to remember that whales are wild animals and even though we are there to help they can be unpredictable so we ensure we train every year."

Between 30-40 whales were reported as being trapped with the local authorities helping at least 19 along the east coast last season.

Another whale was release off Diamond Head earlier this year.

Removing ropes and lines from distressed whales means getting close enough to cut them off, but not close enough to risk human injury.

"We are so fortunate to have a close relationship with Port Macquarie Marine Rescue because they are instrumental to us when we are out helping the whales," he said.

"Different techniques can be used to help whales that get tangled, but it is a slow process as we do not want to stress the animal out any more than necessary."

Crews try to free the whale off Shelly Beach in 2017. Photo: Courtesy of Marine Rescue NSW Facebook

Crews try to free the whale off Shelly Beach in 2017. Photo: Courtesy of Marine Rescue NSW Facebook

“It was a very difficult situation; visibility was very poor and even the footage we filmed from above was not clear about where ropes were attached,” he said.

“From an operational standpoint we were able to remove the ropes but it was too late and the whale washed up on the beach.”

Ali Cameron-Brown, lead crew member on Port Macquarie Marine Rescue’s boat 30, said from their point of view, Marine Rescue was there to provide safety and support.

“Our role is to help save lives on the water, so in situations like this we are there to ensure the safety of National Parks and Wildlife rangers,” Ms Cameron-Brown said.

“Our biggest vessel Port Macquarie 30 also allows us to get a better view from above so we can be instrumental in that way – helping assess how big the whale may be and look out for any other dangers potentially not visible at sea level.”

Crews attempt to haul the dead whale off Nobbys Beach.

Crews attempt to haul the dead whale off Nobbys Beach.

She said helping with whale entanglements was something most people might not realise Marine Rescue helps with.

“It is an unusual part of the job for sure, but I think we all get satisfaction when we have been able to help Parks and Wildlife get a whale get free,” she said.

“And days like today are great for us, because we are constantly training and making sure all out boat crew are upskilling so it is fantastic to be able to take part in the training with National Parks and Wildlife.”

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