28 Sep 2010

Rescuers lose chance to free entangled whale

8:16 pm on 28 September 2010

Department of Conservation staff got a hook attached to a humpback whale tangled in fishing-net rope off the Far North coast but it broke off again.


On Monday, a boatie in Doubtless Bay sighted and photographed the humpback tangled in nylon rope from head to tail. DoC says the whale is doomed to die unless it can be cut free.

Carolyn Smith, from DoC's Kaitaia office, says staff tried several times on Tuesday afternoon to get a grapnel hook onto the rope around the creature's tail, before temporarily succeeding.

The hook allows a rope to connect the whale to buoys; an attempt will then be made to cut it free with a knife on the end of a pole.

DoC says that the process - known as kegging - is difficult and risky but that its Kaikoura staff have saved several whales in this way, and sea conditions have been good.

Whale expert called in

Ms Smith says they're determined to find the whale again on Wednesday and cut the rope off. She says it seems to know they're trying to save it and did not seem distressed.

The department has called in a whale expert from Kaikoura to direct the task, and orca researcher Ingrid Visser is also helping in her vessel.

A spotter plane sent up on Tuesday morning sighted the whale at about 1pm and directed rescuers on two boats to the area, near Bergen Point.

Ms Smith says the rope wrapped around the head and tail will prevent the whale from eating and moving properly and eventually kill it, if not removed.