‘I just tried to untangle him’: Man ‘fined’ for rescuing whale trapped in sea net

Observers told local media authorities did not show up to help the whale

Matt Mathers
Wednesday 20 May 2020 15:43
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A man who freed a whale trapped in a sea net says he’s been fined by the Australian government for his efforts.

The man, who only wanted to be known as “Django”, drove his boat out to help the whale after it was spotted struggling off the coast of Burleigh Heights, Gold Coast on Tuesday.

Video of the incident shows Django leap out of a small white boat and swim towards the mammal as his “adrenaline just sort of kicked in”.

He said he then unwrapped the whale’s fin from the net, setting it free. “Basically I just tried to untangle him,” he told ABC News.

“I had a knife, I didn’t really need to use the knife though.”

Django said authorities issued him with a fine when he returned to the coast – despite acting on his own to perform the rescue

Django did not disclose how much he had been fined, but people who interfere with shark nets can be fined up to $26,690 (£14,261).

Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said Django had not yet been fined, pending an investigation.

“It is important that people allow the professionals to do their jobs in circumstances like this,” Mr Furner said.

It remains unclear why Django was hit with the penalty, although Queensland state laws dictate that people can be fined for moving too close to whales.

Local media outlet the Gold Coast Bulletin reported that a large crowd had gathered after the whale was spotted at around 8am, prompting concerned members of the public to call authorities.

Observer Andre Borrell told the publication people had initially been waiting hours for authorities to turn up.

“Luckily a good Samaritan came up and did fisheries’ [officials] jobs for them,” he said.

Shark nets have been implemented in a number of Australian states in a bid to protect swimmers from attacks.

Their use, however, has proved controversial.

Campaigners say nets and drumlines, or permanent fishing hooks, buoyed off the coast of Queensland have killed off some 9,000 tiger sharks – representing 75 per cent of their population – since their deployment in 1962 and are calling for their immediate removal.

According to the Florida Museum, which records shark encounters around the world, there were 11 shark attacks in Australia in 2019.

None of them were fatal, Florida Museum says.

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