Django was diving from his tinny off the coast of Burleigh Heads when he saw the entangled whale.
Django, the man behind the baby humpback rescue, being interviewed by media. (ABC Gold Coast: Cathy Border)
20 May 20
A recreational diver who freed a young whale caught in shark nets off the Gold Coast on Tuesday says he was instantly fined for his trouble, but the State Government maintains an investigation is still ongoing.
The humpback was found entangled before 8:00am on Tuesday off Burleigh Heads.
"Django" — who asked that his full name not be used — was freediving when he saw the whale and said "adrenaline just sort of kicked in".
"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."
The whale was able to swim free, but Django said fisheries inspectors fined him as he was leaving the area.
He said he would not attempt a whale rescue again.
"Yeah, I'm trouble, it was fair enough," he said. "It was an expensive day, but whatever."
Django declined to confirm how much he had been fined but said shark nets "are a waste of time".
"I've dived my whole life," he said. "And sharks just swim around them."
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.
People who have interfered with equipment like shark nets face a maximum fine of $26,690.
There is a shift happening
Griffith University marine biologist Dr Olaf Meynecke said it was the first time in 60 years a whale had been entangled in shark nets during May.
"The condition are also extremely unusual for entanglement," he said. "It's quite windy, it's choppy — usually the whale stays further away when these south-easterly conditions are prevailing.
"We're not quite sure what exactly is happening, but we know that there's more sub-adults migrating a lot earlier in the season."
Dr Meynecke said the first whales of the season were spotted off the Gold Coast in April, which is about a month earlier than previous seasons.
"There is a shift happening," he said. "These animals that come close to shore, the young ones, they're inexperienced, they don't know about the nets and they're just unaware about the danger".
Dr Meynecke said more research was needed to determine the impact entanglement had on behaviours, like dive patterns and stress levels.
Dr Meynecke said the nets pose is significant risk to whales, and should be replaced with drum lines.
"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."
But he said deaths were rare, with about four to 10 whales becoming entangled each season, excluding those that free themselves.
"But it's about the ethical problem we're facing," Dr Meynecke said. "We have a protected animal that should not be harmed and we can predict these incidents so obviously we should do something about it.
"Further into the season when we've got mothers and calves there's usually a couple of days of northerlies and then a calm period of two or three days.
"That's when the entanglements are happening."
Mr Furner said the State Government had committed $1 million over four years to investigate alternatives to shark nets.
- AUTHORS: DOMINIC CASTLE & SARAH CUMMING
- SOURCE: ABC NEWS