Concern for whale tangled in rope

Last updated 16:03 28/06/2011
whale in rope
Mike Morrissey

A humpback whale tangled in rope has been spotted from the air.

Whale trapped
Ian Robertson
This humpback whale may be tangled in a crayfish pot line.

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Beachgoers are being urged to keep a lookout for a humpback whale tangled in rope and last seen near Birdlings Flat.

Department of Conservation (DOC) biodiversity manager Robin Smith said the whale appeared to be entangled in a crayfish pot line with a small buoy attached.

Smith said staff who were experienced in whale "entanglement" travelled from Kaikoura yesterday to assess the situation and said the whale did not appear to be injured.

"They said there's some rub marks from the rope, but it looks reasonably fresh, meaning it's probably a fresh entanglement."

The whale had come within 100 metres of the coast yesterday but could not be found today.

"We're asking the public to keep an eye out for an entangled humpback whale and to let us know as soon as they can if they see it," said Smith.

DOC staff searched the coastline this morning in a fixed-wing plane as far as Taumutu, around Banks Peninsula and out from the coast for three kilometres. "It's possible the whale is now travelling north up the east coast and may be seen offshore from Motanau or Kaikoura," said Smith.

Birdlings Flat resident Ian Robertson, who spotted the whale of Kaitorete Spit, said it had been coming "in and going out" of the area since about 7am yesterday.

However, it had disappeared from sight today.

It was "quite common" to see whales and dolphins in the area, but the whale could have been entangled "anywhere" as clay pots and nets were not common there, he said.

DOC Kaikoura ranger Mike Morrissey, who flew over the whale yesterday, said the whale was unlikely to drown but the line could cause injuries, or impede the whale's movement and its ability to feed.

He urged people not to make any attempt to disentangle the whale themselves as it was dangerous but to phone the department on 0800 DOCHOTline (0800 36 24 68).

The procedure for cutting whales free could take several hours. It could only be done in the right sea conditions and during daylight.

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- The Press

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