Man fined after freeing baby whale from shark nets off Gold Coast

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Wed, 20 May 2020, 6:48PM
The man who raced to free the baby whale from shark nets off the Gold Coast. Photo / News Corp Australia

Man fined after freeing baby whale from shark nets off Gold Coast

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Wed, 20 May 2020, 6:48PM

The hero who took to his tinny on the Gold Coast to free a baby whale tangled in a shark net has reportedly been slapped with a fine by authorities.

A whale calf was spotted in distressed by a drone operator about 7am off Burleigh Heads and authorities were called in to help.

But a "suspected communication issue with the Department of Fisheries" delayed the rescue of the trapped mammal, the news website MyGC.com.au reports.

Frustrated, the good Samaritan, who gave his name as Django to media, jumped into his tinny, raced out to the net and took matters into his own hands.

That decision will now cost the man, with the Gold Coast Bulletin reporting he has been hit with a fine.

Tampering with shark nets is an offence in Queensland that can attract hefty fines. So too is deliberately coming in close proximity to a whale.

"I'm in trouble," Django, who didn't give his last name, told 7 News. "It was an expensive day, but whatever. There are laws. They (fisheries officials) do a good job. It is what it is.

"I thought most people would have done it. You just got to pay the price sometimes."

Django rescuing the whale calf. Photo / Envoy Cull

Django rescuing the whale calf. Photo / Envoy Cull

Sunrise was at the beach as the drama unfolded and reported that the man leapt into the water from his boat and freed the young mammal from the net.

"We saw a small dingy with canopy and a sole occupant about 200m from the headland," a witness told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

"The whale appears to be free now but then a larger boat has turned up."

The whale's condition isn't known. It swam away after being freed.

Despite the man's claim that he was fined, Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said the man wouldn't be punished for his good deed.

"I encourage people to allow the professionals to do their job and make sure they release any marine life that may be unfortunately caught up in this equipment," Furner said.

"It is dangerous equipment, we have obviously seen loss of life of people themselves being entangled."

Whale rescue, after it was caught in the nets off Burleigh Heads Beach. Photo / Envoy Cull

Whale rescue, after it was caught in the nets off Burleigh Heads Beach. Photo / Envoy Cull

James Kable, who spotted the whale with his drone, said the mammal was "very distressed, trying to breathe, just on the surface".

"I got up here for a bit of a sunrise with the surfers and flew out over the nets and saw what looked like a really large mass down there," Mr Kable told Sunrise.

"Which is very unusual. Obviously the nets are normally quite straight and often very hard to see, and I noticed that there was what looks to be quite a small whale – so it could be a baby, I'm not sure."

A SeaWorld spokesman told the Bulletin: "At this stage boating and fisheries will be managing the rescue effort. Our team are on standby should they need assistance."

Since the story has been shared, a fundraising page has attracted more than $8300 in donations from more than 350 Aussies, who say Django is "a legend in the eyes of the local community".

A spokesperson for GoFundMe told news.com.au the fundraiser has been raising money "quickly".

The fundraiser is aiming to cover the cost of the fine, which it reports could be anywhere between $1300 and $55,000.

People donating called Django "courageous", saying without him the calf "surely would have died".

The Queensland Government has been contacted for comment.