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Eight metre humpback whale rescued from line of whelk pots

Lifeboats News Release

The 15 ton whale had been feeding with her calf in Start Bay for the last three weeks when she became caught by her tail by a heavy line of whelk pots.

The RNLI Dart D class inshore lifeboat launched to assist and provide safety cover for divers from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue organisation. The lifeboat took two divers out to assess the situation and they found that the whale had become snared by a line of pots that was anchored to the sea bed a quarter of a mile off Blackpool Sands in Start Bay, South Devon. Cutting equipment was brought out from the beach and initially the crew and the drivers attempted to pull the line close enough to the lifeboat to cut it. When this was shown to be impractical the all weather lifeboat from Salcombe was asked to assist and two of their crew were put aboard the fishing boat belonging to the owner of the pots, with the divers and members of the Dart lifeboat crew. The whale was then gently guided closer by pulling on the line until it became possible for a diver to reach down from the side of the fishing boat and to cut the line. When she had been freed the whale sped off and joined her calf.

The diver leant down from the fishing boat to cut the whale free


The humpback whale was cut free from the line of pots
The 15 ton whale was gently pulled alongside the lifeboat in an attempt to cut it free.


the whale was initially gently brought alongside the lifeboat to try to cut the rope.
As soon as the rope was cut the mother whale sped off to join her calf.


As soon as the rope was cut the mother whale sped off to join her calf.

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen, Carrybridge and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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