Whale rescue team training in Sydney Harbour
Media release: 25 July 2012
With the annual whale migration in full swing and rare southern right whales with their calves visiting Sydney Harbour authorities are preparing for possible unfortunate side of the whale season, whale entanglements.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service’ (NPWS) newly established metropolitan whale rescue specialists will be training in the upper middle harbour to be able to help these giants of the oceans if they need.
Around thirty NPWS staff will be involved in the large whale disentanglement training exercise in the upper Middle Harbour between the Roseville Bridge and Bantry Bay early tomorrow morning.
NPWS Acting Director Metropolitan and Mountains, Gary Dunnett said the NPWS are the lead agency for marine mammal rescue including the management of entangled whales and unfortunately we are seeing more and more animals in trouble every year.
“The training helps prepare for emergencies and builds partnerships with other otheries on the Harbour and along the Sydney coastline that are all important in assisting with successful outcomes when a whale needs assistance," Mr Dunnett said.
“This training builds further capacity for NPWS to manage whale disentanglements off the Sydney coastline, which have been increasing every year," he said.
NPWS marine expert Geoff Ross will also be providing training on new satellite tracking devices which can be attached to entangle to material to help crews track and relocated animals as needed.
“Unfortunately some rescue attempts need to be delayed or called off due to failing light or sea conditions.
“Being able to track and relocate the entangled animals the next day or when conditions improve will be invaluable.
“An adult humpback is the equivalent size of 11 elephants and their massive tails are extremely powerful which is why only specially trained staff should attempt a rescue,” Mr Dunnett said.
“With more than 2,200 whales counted by Cape Solander Whale Count volunteers last year and almost three times the number counted a decade ago, unfortunately whale incidents including entanglements are becoming more common.
“Assisting entangled whales is a dangerous exercise, specialist training is critical,” he said.
The training assists staff to prepare for the operational response of large whales entangled in rope, floats and other fishing gear and helps reduce the risk to staff undertaking the disentanglement response.
The rescue teams will undertake on-the-water training to free a four metre simulated whale tail which is tangled in long-line commercial tackle and nets tomorrow.
“Every rescue is different, but the priority in every case is the safety of staff and the animal’s wellbeing – a process that requires specialist training and annual review.”
NPWS leads the marine mammal rescue response, working closely with a number of partners including ORRCA, Maritime, Sydney Ports Authority, Water Police, SeaWorld, RSPCA, Taronga and commercial operators on a number of different aspects.
Whales face a number of threats on their migration, especially while calving and protecting their young.
They undertake a staggering 5,000 km in their journey between Antarctica and Queensland and face a number of threats along the way, including accidental entanglement.
People can find out more about Right Whales, the Humpback Whale migration and the best spots to see whales from our national parks at www.wildaboutwhales.com.au. This site contains lots of interesting information about whales, dolphins and seals and gives the public the chance to share their own whale sightings via twitter using the hashtag #whaleon, or the Wild About Whales smartphone app. Whale watching tips and information on whale approach regulations can be found at the Wild About Whales website.
Contact: Lawrence Orel
Page last updated: 25 July 2012