An Australian man is under investigation by the Queensland Government, and faces possible fines, after rescuing a baby whale from a shark net this week.
The man, who asked to be referred to as Django, was freediving off the Gold Coast’s Burleigh Heads on Tuesday morning when he noticed the humpback tangled up in the net and approached it in his tinny. Speaking to the ABC, he reflected that “adrenaline just sort of kicked in”—and after several hours without a response from officials, he decided to take action.
"Basically I just tried to untangle him," he said. "I had a knife, I didn't really need to use the knife though. He just had his pectoral fin sort of wrapped up and he was about eight to nine metres deep."
Django ultimately managed to free the whale from the net—only to be issued a fine by fisheries inspectors, he claims, as he was leaving the area.
"Yeah, I'm trouble,” he said. “It was fair enough … It was an expensive day, but whatever."
He declined to reveal how much he’d been fined, but interfering with equipment like shark nets can carry a maximum fine of $26,690.
Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said Django had not yet been fined, pending an investigation—but stressed that “it is important that people allow the professionals to do their jobs in circumstances like this.”
Experts have called for nets to be phased out altogether, in favour of less invasive methods for repelling sharks. Griffith University marine biologist Dr Olaf Meynecke told the ABC that although deaths of entangled whales are rare, the nets still pose a serious risk.
"There's been a recommendation from the scientific working group that works with the shark control program," he said. "They have recommended to have shark nets replaced with drumlines this whale season."
"We have a protected animal that should not be harmed and we can predict these incidents so obviously we should do something about it.”