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Marine Strandings

Protocols for handeling, reporting and recovery.

Humpback Whale

 

 

Washed up.

 

The Southern Cape coastline boasts a dynamic ocean and shoreline driven by strong winds and strong currents and the relatively shallow seabed of the Agulhas Bank which extends up to 100km from the shoreline.

The prevailing current that moves past the Garden Route is the warm Agulhas Current, also referred to as the Mozambican current. As this warm current travels in a west to south west direction, it meets the cold Benguela current which moves up past the tip of Africa, past Cape Town and into the Atlantic Ocean.

The convergence of these two currents results is a mixing zone along the southern Cape coastline, and the sudden change of sea temperatures.

 

Garden Route shore

 

Marine Migrations.

 

The South African coastline has a number of annual marine migrations which occur up the east coast. Marine mammals like Southern Right Whales make an annual migration from the tropics to the Cape waters for the winter months to calve. Another annual migration are the Humpback Whales moving from their feeding ground in the Antarctic to the tropics, usually around late winter. Normally they don't feed in South African water, but they will not pass up an opportunity to feed as was witnessed in early 2019/2020 summer season where super pods were observed feeding off the west coast of South Africa.

 

There are also some local and regional migrations of some shark species like the Bull, Ragged Tooth and Great White sharks through southern Cape waters.

 

Sardine Run.

 

Sardine Run

 

Considered the largest migration in terms of biomass, the Sardine Run is an annual migration of shoals of sardines migrating from Cape waters to the warmer waters along the KwaZulu Natal coast to spawn, with accompanying marine predators feeding off the shoals. View video of the Sardine Run.

 

 

Feature-1

Turtle Strandings.

Hatchlings.

In South Africa, two species of turtles, the Loggerhead and Leatherback Turtles lay eggs on the warm Kwa Zulu Natal beaches.

When the eggs hatch in mid to late summer, the turtle hatchlings swim out to sea. Some get caught up in the Agulhas Current and get washed down to Cape waters where they can be stranded on the beach when as a result of thermic shock in the colder waters or being blown ashore by strong southerly winds.

Turtle Rescue.

If you find a stranded turtle hatchling on the beach, the best treatment is to pick it up, place it on a dry cloth in a dry container with ample ventilation and drop it off at one of the Turtle Rescue collection points.

In the Garden Route, collection points are at the SANParks offices at either Rondevlei or Thessen Island.

For records, take a photo of the turtle in situ and record a GPS location which can be added to a data base.

Turtle hatchling

Feature-2

Marine Mammal Strandings

Strandings.

Due to both a healthy population of marine mammals and whale migrations, the Garden Route experiences regular strandings of whales and dolphins.

View video of stranded Humpback Whale

With two breeding Cape Fur Seal colonies in the region, one in Mosel Bay and one at Robberg, there are also regular strandings of both alive and dead seals.

What to do.

Do to the sheer size of whales, there is very little that you can do and the best is to contact organization trained and equipped to assess and handle the situation. A comprehensive list of contacts are in the next column.

For dolphins, if they are alive, place a wet towel over them to prevent them overheating. If they aren't injured, get assistance to return them to the ocean.

Seals on the beach are either injured, tired or dead. Do not disturb them, prevent dogs approaching and report their condition and location to a stranding response organization.

Sperm whale

Feature-3

Rescue and Handling

Recovery response.

When you find a stranded whale in the Garden Route, it is crucial to contact organizations that are trained and equipped to deal with the incident. Depending on your location, contacts to report whale and dolphin strandings are :

  1. STRAND (082 887 5423 or 076 839 6712),
  2. Plett Stranding Group (079 463 4837),
  3. PE Museum ( 072 679 4643)
  4. Cape Nature (064 608 9270),
  5. SANParks (084 714 7793),
  6. Strandloper Project (082 213 5931),
  7. Natures Valley Trust (084 549 8498).

 

Sardine Run

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