'Embarrassing': Whale with calf tangled in Queensland shark nets

·Environment Editor
·3-min read

“Like clockwork” another mother whale migrating with her calf through Queensland waters has been tangled in shark nets.

Video shot by Sea World shows the humpbacks moments after, she managed to shake herself free on Thursday morning.

The drumlines, which the state government maintain protect beachgoers, are known to kill a number of marine creatures including dolphins, turtles and sharks.

A whale became entangled in shark nets off Surfers Paradise on Thursday. Source: Sea World
A whale became entangled in shark nets off Surfers Paradise on Thursday. Source: Sea World

Roughly 80 whales have been tangled in just the last decade. Fishing gear also remains a significant issue, with one whale snagged near Coolangatta less than a fortnight ago.

Conservationists have now questioned what this means for Australia's reputation among tourists as a whale-friendly nation.

The whale managed to free herself from the nets before rescuers arrived. Source: Sea World
The whale managed to free herself from the nets before rescuers arrived. Source: Sea World

Speaking with Yahoo News Australia, Dr Leonardo Guida from Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said the Queensland Government must modernise and phase out shark nets.

"We would like to see a permanent removal of the nets and technologies such as drones put up in their place,” he said.

“At the absolute very least we know whales come through Queensland at this time of year like clockwork, there is no reason those nets should be there during whale migration season.

How the Gold Coast whale rescue unfolded

The most recent entanglement occurred on Thursday morning, and specialist crews from Sea World attended the scene.

A spokesperson from the theme park told Yahoo News Australia the mother managed to entangle herself from the netting as they travelled to the area.

While Thursday’s incident had a happy ending, shark nets entanglement is known to cause significant stress to whales. They are opposed by marine animal welfare groups including Humane Society International, Sea Shepherd and AMCS.

“You can literally hear the whales cry, mothers become distressed when their calves are caught - we’ve seen this on footage numerous times, Dr Guida said.

“The short of it is that the whales become stressed, panicked and can ultimately drown.”

Shark nets 'embarrassing' for all Australians

Dr Guida said while the government maintains shark nets protect swimmers, rescuers attending to trapped marine creatures are frequently put in danger.

A whale became entangled in fishing gear less than a fortnight ago. Source: Sea World
A whale became entangled in fishing gear less than a fortnight ago. Source: Sea World

He said the “the million-dollar question” is when authorities will listen to the science and phase the nets out.

“This is embarrassing, not just for Australian tourism, not just for the Queensland Government, but for every Australian including myself,” he said.

“It is embarrassing that nets are still there as whales pass through when we have the solutions at hand today.”

Government says protection of human life is its priority

In response to Thursday's events, Fisheries Queensland, which manages the drumline program, said "human life" is its "first priority".

It promised to repair any damage to the net inflicted by the whale.

"We are continually working on innovation and improvements to the program," a spokesperson said.

"People who see an entangled animal should not approach or try to release it.

"(Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol’s Marine Animal Release Team) MART trains every year for whale release situations and has the necessary equipment to undertake a safe release.

"Anyone who spots a whale or other marine animal tangled in fishing gear or shark netting should call the 24-hour Shark Hotline on 1800 806 891."

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