PortandTerminal.com, May 21, 2020
Rescuer hailed a hero on social media but risks fines of over $17k for interfering with shark control nets
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – A man who rescued a whale calf trapped in nets off the Gold Coast from a small boat may face a fine of over $US 17 thousand.
The man, how was out fishing at the time, rescued the stricken animal on Tuesday morning as officials took more than two hours to respond.
“I saw the whale and I thought, ‘That is pretty cool’,” the rescuer, who asked not to be named, told reporters. “Then I saw he was in the net and I thought, ‘That is not cool’.”
Local media is reporting that the brave Australian, realizing that the baby humpback whale was trapped in shark netting and in distress, immediately set off to help.
He said he took off his shirt and donned swimming fins before diving into waters off Burleigh Heads, using his knife to free the baby whale’s pectoral fin from the net, which was cutting into its flesh.
“He was about eight to nine metres deep (26 to 30 feet). Because of the adrenalin, my heart was just pumping,” he said, describing his repeated resurfacing.
It’s unknown how long the calf – believed to be a humpback – had been trapped.
It was spotted about 7am by a drone operator, and a crew from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries arrived at the scene at 9.45am.
However, the man had already released the whale, drawing a cheer from a crowd of onlookers who had gathered on the cliffs above the water.
While the rescuer was hailed as a hero on social media, he now risks a fine of up to $26,900 AUD ($US 17,500) for interfering with shark control nets.
He said staff from Queensland Fisheries intercepted him as he came to shore.
“Yeah, I’m in trouble. I wasn’t going out there to see whales. It was an expensive day but whatever … you pay the price sometimes,” he said. “I didn’t think about what the fine was.”
Queensland Fisheries has confirmed it is investigating but says no fine has yet been issued.
The fisheries minister, Mark Furner, said the rescue was incredibly risky. “It is dangerous equipment. We have unfortunately seen the loss of life when people have themselves become entangled in this equipment.
Local residents also sided with the rescuer: they announced a fundraiser to cover the hero’s potential expenses.
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