Man who freed whale calf escapes fine
The 'hero' in a tinny who freed a whale calf from shark nets on the Gold Coast has avoided a fine over the rescue.
The man, who calls himself Django, was facing fines of up to $26,900 for interfering with shark control nets when he freed the stricken animal on Tuesday morning, after officials took more than two hours to respond.
He escaped a monetary fine as it was his first offence, but was issued with two formal warning notices for entering the exclusion zone around the shark nets off Burleigh Heads and interfering with them.
The Marine Animal Rescue Team (MART) was only minutes away when the man intervened, a fisheries spokesman said in a statement.
"To be clear - this incident could have had a tragic outcome," the spokesman said.
"He put himself in serious danger, as well as potentially injuring the whale, and creating a situation where MART could have been at significant risk trying to rescue a trapped swimmer next to the thrashing whale."
He urged swimmers and boaties to leave rescues to the professionals.
Django was in his boat off Burleigh Heads on Tuesday when he saw the whale in distress.
"I saw the whale and I thought, 'That is pretty cool'. Then I saw he was in the net and I thought, 'That is not cool'," he told reporters on Tuesday.
He took off his shirt and donned swimming fins before diving into the water and freed the baby whale's pectoral fin from the net which was cutting into its flesh.
The community labelled him a hero, but But Queensland Fisheries say the rescue was "reckless and completely unnecessary".
The incident reignited the controversy surrounding the state government's shark control program.
Six whales became trapped in the state's shark control equipment last year, but all were successfully released.
However, scores of other non-target marine animals are caught in the nets each year, many dying.
Aspects of the program were successfully challenged in court last year by the Humane Society, which argued catching and killing sharks did not reduce the risk of an unprovoked attack.
However, a number of shark nets and drumlines were reintroduced along the Queensland coast in a reported attempt to stem a drop in tourism numbers following a string of attacks, one of which was fatal.
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