Trapped whale 'fighting for its life' on beach signals grave Aussie problem

The whale was found on the Queensland beach on Monday morning after becoming trapped.

The humpback whale tangled in shark nets off Marcoola Beach (left) and Taylor Ladd-Hudson looking at the camera at the beach (right).
A humpback whale was stuck in shark nets off the coast of Queensland's Marcoola Beach on Monday. Taylor Ladd-Hudson, right, rushed to assist. Source: Facebook and Instagram

There has been a renewed push to remove shark nets along the east coast of the country after a humpback whale migrating north for winter got stuck and was "fighting for its life" on Monday morning.

Wildlife rescuer Taylor Ladd-Hudson, 15, received a phone call around 7.30am about a large whale trapped off Marcoola Beach, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, and rushed down to assist. However, a group of paddle boarders had already got to the animal first — cutting it free and leaving the damaged shark nets floating on the water.

"It's just so sad to see this, to see humpback whales become entangled in the shark nets and along our coastline during the migrating season off the coast...they don't have spare energy to waste fighting for their lives," she told Yahoo News.

This is the second whale entanglement in the local area since the migrating season began and rescuers are apprehensive for the months ahead, expecting at least 17 of the animals to pass their shores and even more on their return trip after the mating season.

The rescuers had to risk punitive legal action to rescue the large mammal who was sighted "floundering in the shallows, unusually still, yet still breathing" as the Queensland government made it illegal to go within 20 metres of shark nets in the ocean.

"Whilst the Queensland Government continues to place shark nets on the humpback highway, brave people will continue to rescue, will continue to resist, and will continue to agitate for change," Jonathan Clark, Sea Shepherd Australia’s Shark Defence Campaigner said.

The organisation is pushing for shark nets to be removed from the "humpback highway".

"These barbaric fishing devices do nothing to increase beach safety and everything to harm innocent wildlife, our tourism industry, and our government’s credibility," he said.

A turtle was found entangled about a kilometre off Dee Why beach, on Sydney's Northern Beaches.
In March, a leatherback turtle was found entangled about a kilometre off Dee Why beach, on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Source: Wildlife Media

Despite the majority of the community agreeing measures need to be in place to restrict shark activity in areas where people frequently swim, there has been a huge pushback against shark nets as marine life often get caught in them, causing devastation.

In March an almost century-old turtle was found caught in shark nets off the coast of Sydney's northern beaches, with rescuers saying the animal would have likely drowned if they hadn't intervened. A fisherman was brought to tears after finding a dead dolphin floating in the water stuck in shark nets.

Even the animals they are intended to keep out are often found entangled, rather than simply steering them away.

"I'm super passionate about having the shark nets removed and replaced with alternative modern technology," Taylor told Yahoo News. Activists are pushing for alternative measures like drone and satellite technology to track marine life for safety purposes so the animals, as well as swimmers, are protected.

"I've helped manage the past three humpback whale entanglements on the Noosa Main Beach and it's just so devastating each season to see this happening over and over again."

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