A YOUNG humpback whale has been freed from ropes by National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) rescue crews on the south coast off Bermagui, late yesterday afternoon.
NPWS operations coordinator, Ian Kerr said crews working with Marine Parks Authority staff managed to cut 150 metres of nylon rope and floats from the young calf off Cuttagee, just on dusk.
“Although there is one small piece of rope remaining the chances of the calf surviving has now improved greatly,” Ian said.
“It was very satisfying to see the calf re-join with its mother and the pair continued to head south yesterday evening,” he said.
"If the material had not been removed the chances of this whale surviving would not have been good," he said.
"Freeing the whale involved using two inflatable rescue boats with crews using hook-shaped knives on long poles which minimises risk to rescuers.
“While the conditions were good, agitated whales always makes for a dangerous operation and the team have to ensure safety is paramount.
“The successful operation would not have been possible without the support of those involved including ORRCA volunteers and staff from the Marine Parks Authority as well as the dedicated whale disentanglement teams.
"Increasing whale numbers and human use of the oceans mean there is a greater chance whales can be entangled in fishing gear, nets or ropes during their migration up and down the coast,” Ian said.
The entangled calf was first spotted by a helicopter pilot off Depot Beach, near Batemans Bay, Monday afternoon but high winds and the mother’s naturally protective behaviour prevented the rescue crews from approaching the calf until Tuesday.
National Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Sarah Scroope said the calf was cut free from 90 per cent the rope between 5pm and 6pm on Tuesday.
“It is now free and swimming with its mum,” she said.
“Crews are now returning to shore and will reassess the whale in the morning.”
Ms Scroope said it was getting too dangerous to get the remaining bit of rope removed from the calf.
“The calf and the mother were still happy but the calf was beginning to show signs of becoming distressed,” she said.
“The rest of the rope is in its mouth area and wrapped around its head.
“In this case, that was the hardest bit to free.”
On Wednesday morning she said there was a bit of rope left in the baby whale's mouth area but it was deemed to be highly unlikely to hinder its progress and the mother and calf are now most likely passed Eden and into Bass Straight. No further action is being taken.