Sad sight spotted on whale off Aussie coast

The heartbreaking sight is a common and deadly issue observed when whales are migrating.

A search for an entangled humpback whale is still underway after a team of trained responders were not able to free it on the weekend.

The heartbreaking state of the whale with rope and a float around its tail was first seen on Saturday offshore near Gantheaume Point, Broome, and a report was made to the Parks and Wildlife Service in the Kimberley.

A team of trained responders was then deployed in the afternoon to try and detangle the whale, however after attempting to do so for several hours, they had to retreat for safety reasons.

A photo of a humpback whale first sighted offshore near Gantheaume Point, Broome, with rope on its tail.
A search is underway for a humpback whale first sighted offshore near Gantheaume Point, Broome, with rope on its tail. Source: Parks and Wildlife Service, Kimberley

"Unfortunately, there was not an opportunity for the team to safely attach a satellite tag to the entanglement before it began to get dark," the Parks and Wildlife Service Kimberley posted on Facebook on Sunday.

"The safety of responders is always the number one priority when attempting to disentangle a whale."

At that point, the whale was seen to be swimming freely at about 3 knots (5.5km per hour).

Fishing equipment potentially fatal to whales

Humpback whales are a protected species found off coastal Australia, that feed on krill and small schooling fish. They spend summer in the Antarctic, before migrating north during winter to breed.

Though during their migration, there is a deadly risk of getting entangled, with fishing gear accidentally killing hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins every year, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

"Due to the increasing numbers of humpback whales migrating along the Western Australian coast, the overall number of entanglements have continued to increase. Therefore, it is now necessary to review the current management arrangements," Fisheries WA says online. New management arrangements include fishing gear modifications.

If you see an entangled whale or any marine mammal in distress, its encouraged to stay at least 200 metres away from the animal and not intervene by removing any trailing ropes or line.

Instead, call the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055 or contact the local Parks and Wildlife Service office.

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