JOHN Edwards rushed down from Perth on Thursday morning after getting a call about a humpback whale tangled in craypots off Busselton Jetty.
Boats from Busselton Department of Fisheries and the Busselton Volunteer Marine Rescue Group had been out on the bay since just after 9am tracking the 9m juvenile humpback.
John, a senior marine operations officer from the Department of Environment and Conservation arrived in Busselton and hit the water just before 2pm.
From then on a delicate operation took place which saw John and a team of marine experts work for hours to free the whale of craypots tangled around its tail.
“The saving grace in this case was people from Busselton DEC getting out on the water with the whale straight away.
“This meant that we were getting valuable information about the animal as we travelled, so when we got to Busselton we could get straight out in the boat and do what we needed to do,” he said.
The whale was dragging a rope 4m behind it.
Using a small inflatable boat John and his team attached a longer rope to the one attached to the whale, which were then attached to metre-round buoys.
“The buoys create drag and slow the whale down, tiring it out, which means it won’t dive.
“In reality it’s a similar approach to what the whalers used, except we don’t use a harpoon, but we slow the whale down before we can work on it.
“Then we use a view scope, which is essentially a bucket with a glass bottom that gives us a good view under the water, to have a close look at the entanglement.”
In this case the entanglement was pretty simple – a craypot line had wrapped around the whale’s tail three times.
“From there we get a curved knife, which has one smooth side so we don’t hurt the creature, in under the ropes and cut them off.
“We had a great result on the day because of the efforts of the Busselton DEC, Fisheries and Marine Rescue crews.”
The whale, once freed of the entanglement, headed off back out to sea to continue its migration.
If anyone sees a whale entangled, they should call DEC or the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055.
“The important thing is to not try to cut it free yourself, don’t cut off dragging lines because they can be helpful to us when it comes to freeing it,” John said.
For John this is just another day – the next day he took part in another rescue, this time of a dolphin calf that was tangled in fishing line in the Swan River.