26 September 2023

Expert whale rescue team on standby

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The National Parks and Wildlife Service’s (NPWS) dedicated whale rescue team have been honing their whale rescue skills this month as the annual whale migration along Australia’s east coast kicks off.

Senior Conservation Planning Officer at NPWS, Mel Hall said that each year NPWS responded to reports of whales that had ropes and lines tangled around their tail or pectoral fins.

“The safety of our staff attempting a rescue is the absolutely priority and each year the team does this training to refresh their skills,” Ms Hall said.

“If conditions allow, we launch small inflatable boats, approach the animal, assess the entanglement and the animal’s condition, speed and behaviour,” she said.

“These rescue missions are inherently dangerous as we are not only up against changing sea conditions, but also large, unpredictable and distressed animals, and occasionally other marine predators.”

Ms Hall said the goal of the training, which saw NPWS staff practice cutting ropes and buoys off a fake whale tail with specialist tools, was to ensure the whale rescue team was fully equipped and ready to respond to what could be a daunting task.

She said while NPWS hoped not to have to use the rescue skills, there was a chance that some of the approximately 40,000 whales expected to join the ‘humpback highway’ between now and October would get into trouble.

The Senior Conservation Planning Officer said that last year NPWS freed entangled whales on five separate rescues, including the juvenile whale freed off Sydney’s Whale Beach.

“The best way for people to help these animals is to immediately report sightings of entangled or distressed whales to authorities,” Ms Hall said.

“Anyone who sees a distressed or entangled whale should not attempt to free it but call NPWS on 13000PARKS (1300 072 757) or ORRCA on 02 9415 3333.”

She encouraged members of the public to keep an eye on any entangled whales they spot from the shore to help NPWS swiftly locate the distressed animal.

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