Today we experienced a situation we always carefully look for on each of our tours and something that thankfully is not regularly sighted… Humpback calf entanglement. The first sighting of this pod seemed perfectly normal with both mother and calf surfacing a few hundred meters away and the moment we thought something might not be right was when there was a sudden change of direction. Looking on the opposite side of them we could now see the Humpback calf entanglement in bright orange cray pot lines and a large wound in front or mums dorsal which also appeared to have been caused by possible rope burn. We are very fortunate in Western Australia to have a dedicated team of rescuers and caring people who within half an hour of alerting DBCA we had two rescue vessels approaching the area to help keep vessel traffic away from the pod and protect their space so we could swap roles with them. Melissa and her team back in port were organising their rescue vessel and a few phone calls back and forth with locations details and conditions of the mother and calf updates kept us busy as everyone onboard helped to keep track of the movement of both whales.
The calf was moving freely and was keeping up right alongside mum comfortably, they were not extremely distressed and moving with speed through busier areas when needed. The entanglement did not appear to go through the mouth of the calf and the movement of his fluke was still strong and smooth with no apparent cray pot being carried by this calf. It is hard to determine how long both mother and calf have been carrying the injury and rope, but both were swimming strongly and did not at this stage show signs on long term fatigue. Currently they have not been re-sighted by the rescue team and with weather conditions forecast to be strong winds tomorrow we are hoping that they will rest in the area. The strength of the pod and their movement also made rescue and removal of the rope very difficult, for now we have collected enough information so we are better prepared for a rescue attempt.
The week ahead will bring less vessel traffic and disturbances to mother and calf and we will be out again first thing on Tuesday morning to search for them. We would like to thank everyone involved today who jumped into action with a collaborated effort to assist mother and calf, it is very inspiring to see the care and effort everyone puts in to help protect our wonderful whales. A big thank you also to every one of our guests onboard today who also assisted greatly as it can be very easy to lose track of a pod in this type of situation, but your eyes and ears made sure we could stay with this pod for as long as possible. We will keep you all updated of any further information.
Our 11:30am tour departed into beautiful conditions on a very busy Sunday afternoon and we continued to have our eyes peeled for mother and calf as we searched the area of their last known sighting. During our search we came across a few of the other pods including a mother and her calf who were being followed by a rather cheeky male trying to show off his smooth moves to the female. She seemed unimpressed unfortunately for him though and soon swam directly towards us as she looked for a distraction for this male instead of focusing his attention on her! The calf seemed to enjoy the opportunity to check us out on the way past the bow as mum did another U turn back towards us again, this male was very persistent and continued to follow them both closely. Deciding to continue to have a bit more of a look around incase of a re-sighting of the mother and calf pod we came across two large, adult males cruising at a comfortable pace and seemed very focused on continuing their migration. Males will often travel in a bachelor style pod like this when on the lookout for females and as they scanned through the coast and no female was found they continued towards Rottnest Island.