Whales often become entangled in fishing nets and marine debris or become beached, and may require human help in order to be freed and returned to the sea.
Whale numbers are making a gradual recovery. However, this recovery is threatened by the growth in coastal developments, fishing activities, and other marine infrastructure, right in the middle of the whales’ migration path. As more whales migrate up and back down the NSW coast each year, we are seeing more and more entanglements in nets and other marine debris.
Unfortunately this problem is not unique to NSW or even Australia. Reports from the US show that 10-20% of humpback whales suffer entanglement injuries each year.
Whale disentanglement is a difficult and dangerous job. If you would like to donate to the training of rescuers and the purchase of rescue equipment, go to our donation page.
There have been many cases of whales and dolphins stranding themselves, either as individuals or in large groups, on beaches around Australia. There are a range of theories as to why this occurs, such as whales following schools of fish, or problems with their sonar.
Beached whales need to be returned to the water as soon as possible. Smaller whales can be placed on large stretchers and manually refloated, while for larger whales it is often necessary to dig a trench for the whale to float out to deeper water when the tide comes in. Until this happens, volunteers are often needed to splash bucket after bucket of seawater to the beached whale. A specially designed pulling harness is currently being developed to assist in whale rescue.
ORRCA (Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia)
Made up purely of volunteers, ORRCA is the most experienced and successful whale rescue organisation in Australia and is also involved with the protection and welfare of seals, sea lions, dolphins and dugongs.
ORRCA is the only wildlife carers group in New South Wales licensed to be involved with marine mammal rescue, rehabilitation and release. Their members come from all walks of life, age groups and nationalities and operate as a non-profit organisation.
If you’re keen to get involved, ORRCA provides Marine Mammal Rescue Training Workshops which, once complete, qualifies you to become a member of the ORRCA Rescue Team.
For more information about the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) or to sign-up for a training workshop please visit www.orrca.org.au.
If you see a stranded whale, or an entangled or sick whale or seal in distress please report it as soon as possible to the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service State Duty officer on 02 9895 7128 or ORRCA whale and dolphin rescue on 02 9415 3333 (24 hours hotline).