'Like razor blades': Push to scrap 'barbaric' shark nets

Calls have been renewed for the Queensland government to remove shark nets during whale migration season, after an entanglement off the Gold Coast this week.

Aerial video from Wednesday shows a young sub-adult humpback whale unable to escape the bright orange buoys and ropes wrapped tightly around its tail.

Government teams, supported by Sea World, worked tirelessly over two days to disentangle the animal, but despite setting it free, as of yesterday it was continuing to drag remnants of the nets.

A still from a video showing the whale trapped off the Gold Coast.
Crews worked for two days to try and rescue the trapped whale. Source: Scott Wilson Imagery

Fisheries Queensland told Yahoo News Australia that items removed yesterday included an anchor and 25 metres of chain.

Crews are understood to be resting today, after they removed many of the items that were dragging behind the whale.

"The deflated buoys should not impede the whale’s ability to swim, dive or feed," a spokesperson said.

"It was observed last night to be in relatively good condition and able to swim freely."

Shark nets more 'barbaric' than harpoons, critics argue

While ocean advocates Sea Shepherd Australia acknowledge the extreme challenges rescue teams faced, they remain concerned that the whale will not survive long term.

The group’s Managing Director Jeff Hansen, a critic of the government’s shark control program, said the nets can be more “more cruel and barbaric” than harpoons as they strangle whales over a long period of time.

Two file images of whales caught in shark nets.
Animal welfare groups have called on the Queensland government to remove their shark nets. Source: HSI - File Images

“We have ropes acting like razor blades, continuing to tighten and cut deep into the whale's tail region, disabling its ability to swim and outrun predators,” he said.

Why shark nets are controversial

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Human life comes first government says

Shark nets remain controversial in Queensland where they regularly claim the lives of dolphins, sea turtles and endangered species.

Last year six whales were caught in nets, but all were released.

Earlier this month, Queensland authorities ruled out making changes to the shark net program “until effective alternatives suitable for Queensland conditions are identified and proven”, adding that they put “human life and human safety first”.

“Ongoing research is focused on continually improving the program in line with emerging science and community expectations,” they said in a statement.

Humane Society International say they support government efforts to find an alternative, but maintain the nets must be immediately removed, claiming that they are outdated and “provide a false sense of security”.

HSI marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck said the whale’s entanglement was not surprising.

“What has happened to this humpback is a tragic and confronting example of what is happening to wildlife up and down the coast in the shark nets every day,” he said.

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