The SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN), in conjunction with the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) on Monday rescued a female Humpback whale swimming with her calf.
The whales were caught in fishing rope and two flotation buoys off St Francis Bay, about 100km from Port Elizabeth.
"NSRI Port Elizabeth sea rescue craft accompanied by SAWDN volunteers and a SAWDN volunteer whale watching boat responded. Arriving on the scene, we found the whale moving swiftly at about 5 knots and entangled in two wraps of fishing rope around her body and trailing fishing rope attached to two flotation buoys," the NSRI said in a statement.
Volunteers moved to free the whale by first slowing the whale down and then cutting the whale free from the rope.
"Using a rescue knife, our SAWDN volunteers cut one rope free of the whale and then pulled on a remaining rope entangled around the body of the whale - that rope came free and all rope and the flotation buoys were recovered," said the NSRI.
Number of deaths
The whole operation took around two and a half hours and the whale breached once freed.
According to the International Whaling Commission, it is estimated that more than 300 000 whales and dolphins die each year as a result of entanglement.
Recently, Jacques du Toit of the environmental management department of the City of Cape Town told News24 that several whale carcasses are removed from the beaches around the city on an annual basis.
"We recover approximately 14 or 15 or carcasses per year and that includes carcasses that wash out or whales which die from entanglements."
The volunteer SAWDN has rescued 184 whales since its establishment in 2006.
All whale in distress sightings should be reported to local authorities or rescue organisations, such as the NSRI.
According to regulations on whale watching from the Marine Living Resources Act (18 of 1998), it is illegal to approach within 300m of a whale or dolphin.