By MEL MARTIN
A YOUNG humpback whale had a lucky escape after it was seen entangled in fish trap ropes early yesterday morning just off Sawtell.
When a fisherman reported seeing the entangled whale off Grassy Head to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), an aerial search began immediately.
But with a huge number of whales swimming off the Coffs Coast yesterday, the search proved difficult.
"The NPWS asked us to find it. We went looking for it, but it took us ages because there were so many whales," Coffs Coast Jet Service owner Vaughan Jones said.
"I've never seen so many whales around, and I've been flying for years."
Around 10am the young whale was located off Bundagen Headland and the specially trained rescue NPWS and Marine Park Authority team sprung into action.
The team successfully removed the rope and three buoys from around the mouth of the 4.5 metre calf, freeing it at 11.45am two kilometres south-east of Sawtell.
"The young calf was last seen swimming strongly and freely south accompanied by an adult which was most likely its mother," NPWS Coffs Coast Ranger David Nalder said.
Mr Nalder praised the efforts of the rescue team for the quick and efficient operation and thanked the fisherman for the early report.
"At this time of year, many humpback whales and newborn calves are passing our coast as they migrate south to feed in the Antarctic," he said. "It is important for people to report these types of situations as quickly as possible to the NPWS to increase chances of a successful release."