FISH trap ropes nearly had fatal consequences after a juvenile humpback whale became entangled in fishing equipment five nautical miles east of Montague Island last week.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Marine Fauna coordinator Geoff Ross and Professor Robert Harcourt from Macquarie University mounted a disentanglement mission, but fortunately the whale freed itself.
“This whale was aged between one to two years and was accompanied by an adult whale,” Mr Ross said.
“It swam towards Montague Island with a rope and fish trap attached to its fluke and once in shallower waters, the trap became stuck on the ocean floor and the whale pulled free.”
Professor Harcourt said entanglements were a common cause of whale and dolphin deaths and it was critical to prevent such events.
“Trained rescuers do all we can to disentangle marine mammals but the fact is, these animals most often die a slow death from wounds, restricted movement, predator attack and general loss of condition,” Mr Harcourt said.
“All fishers must ensure they do not leave ropes, nets, or any other equipment in the ocean and we all share responsibility for keeping plastic bags and other debris out of waterways.”
Once free, a third whale joined the juvenile and adult humpbacks, and the trio was last seen heading south from Montague Island.
All involved offer special thanks to Warren “Wazza” Stubbs from Lighthouse Charters and Montague Island Discovery Tours for raising the alarm and lending his time and vessel to help monitor the entrapped whale.
“We noticed that we weren’t seeing normal whale behaviour and we spotted the trap buoys near the whales,” Mr Stubbs said.
“We notified the National Parks staff, they got a visual on the whale from the lighthouse, and we dropped off our clients on Montague Island and were only too happy to help.
“After the tail-wrapped whale freed itself, three whales swam all around our boat and gave us a thank you, it was the best whale watching display I have seen to date and I truly believe they knew we were trying to help them.”