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Anger at baby whale’s close call

TAIL SLAP: The Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol marine animal release team tries to free a baby humpback from shark nets at Rainbow Beach while being splashed by the calf’s mother.
TAIL SLAP: The Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol marine animal release team tries to free a baby humpback from shark nets at Rainbow Beach while being splashed by the calf’s mother.

ANTI-SHARK net campaigner Kevin Phillips called on the government to remove shark nets at Rainbow Beach after a juvenile whale got entangled and nearly drowned yesterday.

The five-metre-long humpback calf was freed yesterday afternoon by the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol's marine animal release team in a five hour operation.

Mr Phillips, the owner/operator of Wolf Rock Dive, said rescues like yesterday's should never be necessary.

He said nets were not needed at Rainbow Beach - all they did was kill a lot of harmless sea creatures and endanger whales.

"There is no place in our ocean for shark nets; they are totally unnecessary," Mr Phillips said.

"The least they could do is take the nets away during whale season."

NO NETS: Anti-shark net advocate Kev Phillips says Rainbow Beach should get rid of the shark nets.
NO NETS: Anti-shark net advocate Kev Phillips says Rainbow Beach should get rid of the shark nets.

Mr Phillips said the calf was badly entangled in the net and he was alerted to its predicament by his dive master Cassie Smith early yesterday morning.

Ms Smith spotted the whales swimming near the shark nets just on dark on Wednesday.

Because they were so close to the nets she was concerned they may get trapped and got up early yesterday morning to check.

On arrival at the beach she found the juvenile entangled in the nets, about 250m offshore, and its mother swimming nearby.

Aerial pictures shown to Mr Phillips showed the whale was thoroughly entangled.

"It was well wound up; there was not much of the whale that didn't have mesh on it," Mr Phillips said.

First on the scene to help were government shark contractors.

They loosened the nets which allowed the calf to surface and breathe while they waited for the marine animal release team to arrive.

Rubber duckies were used to take the team to the trapped whale.

Team members used a long handled blade to cut away the net from the body of the whale.

Witnesses on the beach said the mother seemed agitated as the rescuers cut the net from the calf.

The massive humpback breached and tail-slapped the water many times before swimming in a continuous circuit to check on her calf.

Queensland shark control program manager Jeff Krause, from the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol, said the whale was badly entangled and the rescuers did a great job.

"Sea conditions were very good and this enabled the team to cut the ropes off," Mr Krause said.

"Throughout the release the whale was relatively calm and was near the surface, which meant it could breathe easily."

DISTRESSED: The mother of a baby humpback caught in a shark net at Rainbow Beach breaches while shark control personnel loosen the nets.
DISTRESSED: The mother of a baby humpback caught in a shark net at Rainbow Beach breaches while shark control personnel loosen the nets.

Approximately 20,000 whales are currently making their return journey at the end of the migration season.

This is the eighth whale this migration season to be caught in shark control equipment in Queensland, but the first to be snared at Rainbow Beach.

Anyone who spots a whale or other marine animal tangled in the shark control program equipment should call the 24-hour Shark Hotline on 1800 806 891.

For more information on the Shark Control Program or Marine Animal Release Teams, visit http://www.fisheries.qld.gov.au.

Gympie Times

Topics:  editors picks, rainbow beach, whale




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