Rescuers have long wait for safe conditions to assist stranded whale

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is working with marine mammal experts and trained volunteers from ORRCA (Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia), Dolphin Marine Magic and Sea World to assist a sub adult humpback whale stranded on 9 June at Sawtell beach, just south of Coffs Harbour.

Humpback whale at Sawtell 9 June 2017

NPWS Senior Wildlife Officer Susan Crocetti said the whale is a 7 to 9 metre sub-adult humpback whale weighing around 10 tonnes.

"The humpback whale was in the surf zone making it very difficult for experts to get near the animal, and making it difficult to make a safe assessment," said Ms Crocetti.

"A specialist vet has joined NPWS staff on site, along with representatives from ORRCA and Dolphin Marine Magic to assess the animal's health and potential options.

"The animal's welfare and the safety of our rescuers are always our main priority in an incident like this, and any decision or activity will only be undertaken with the safety of those involved being paramount.

"Deteriorating weather hampered early efforts, but trained volunteers are now providing immediate first aid and monitoring the animal.

"We have a highly experienced team of specialists assisting with this response and they are doing everything possible to give this whale the best chance of survival.

"At this point our intention is to attempt re-floating the animal at the earliest safe high tide during daylight hours, dependent on the animal's welfare and sea conditions," she said.

Over 30,000 humpback whales are currently travelling up the coast of NSW for the annual breeding season.

Ms Crocetti said the increasing whale population, while an excellent indication of the overall recovery of the species from near extinction mid last century, also means we are likely to see more incidents like this where the whales don't complete the 5000 kilometre journey safely.

"As a sub adult, this will be one of the first times this particular whale has made this migration on its own which may be a factor in the whale stranding itself on the beach at Sawtell this morning," she said.

Stranded, entangled, or sick whales should be reported immediately to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Environment Line on 131 555 or ORRCA Whale and Dolphin Rescue on (02) 9415 3333 (24 hours hotline).

Photos and footage for media: Stranded humpback whale at Sawtell