Rescue crews have worked to free a humpback whale calf trapped in a shark net off the Gold Coast, highlighting the risks of nets to marine populations.
Seaworld said it took about half an hour to free the animal, which was spotted tangled in the Burleigh Heads net shortly after 5:00am.
Seaworld’s director of marine sciences, Trevor Long, who took part in the rescue, said the whale suffered some superficial damage to its head but would recover in the wild.
“It had only probably been caught for a couple of hours, so it still had lots of energy and we were able to free it fairly quickly,” Mr Long said.
Mr Long said the calf’s distressed mother was nearby throughout the rescue.
“It’s quite amazing — these whales appreciate that we’re actually helping the calf and not further damaging the calf,” Mr Long said.
“I think if the mother thought we were further injuring the animal she might take actions towards us that wouldn’t be pleasant.
“They’re very, very concerned, that bond is extremely strong, and they will not leave that calf.”
Outdated nets killing marine life
Mr Long said the issue highlighted the need to update beach protection measures to minimise the harm to wildlife.
In last month’s rescue, the young whale suffered painful grazes after being trapped in a shark net all night.
“The practices that we’re using today date right back to the 1960s,” Mr Long said.
“We do believe there are actions that can be taken that will minimise these whales being caught, as well as reducing the number of indiscriminate taking of dolphin and turtles and other fish.
“Animal welfare has got to come into play a little bit more than it does now.”
He said ‘smart’ drumlines, which could detect when an animal is caught, were preferable to nets.
“The Gold Coast has got a lot of high rises, we can use drones, we’ve got a lot more technologies we can use to identify that there’s an animal out there,” he said.