An Australian man is being hailed as a ‘hero’ online after he risked his own life to free a whale calf that was caught in a shark net. However, the man may be fined $27,000 for his daring act off the Gold Coast.
Beachgoers spotted the trapped whale and called for help. After authorities failed to show up immediately, the Queensland man drove his own boat out to the whale, suspected to be a humpback whale calf, to rescue it. Shark nets are placed near beaches to protect swimmers from shark attacks.
Identified only as Django by local media, he was seen taking off his shirt before taking the plunge, swimming over to the whale and untangling it.
Aerial footage from the scene showed the man celebrating after freeing the calf and and the mammal swimming into deeper waters.
“I saw the whale and I thought, ‘That is pretty cool’,” the rescuer told reporters. “Then I saw he was in the net and I thought, ‘That is not cool’.”
Describing the condition of the calf, he said, “He [the whale] was really cut up … the actual net was going into his flesh. I had a knife, but I didn’t really need to use it, he just had his left pectoral fin wrapped up. Eventually, I got him enough out of the rope so he could just break free.”
He admitted he understood the risks involved given the shark nets could have been potentially been fatal, if he had got entangled in it during the rescue.
Watch the rescue here:
The Department of Fisheries said it had deployed a unit for the rescue mission, but did not arrive by the time the man took matters into his own hands. According to the Brisbane Times, Michael Mikitis, the department’s shark control program manager, said he first received a call at 7:20am on the program hotline. However, it wasn’t until 9:45 am the unit reached the scene.
Mikitis said could not confirm the status of the whale as it had swum away before the crews arrived.
“I encourage people to allow the professionals to do their job and make sure they release any marine life that may be unfortunately caught up in this equipment,” Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said. The minister stressed that it was dangerous equipment and the department have seen people lose their lives from getting entangled in the nets.
A Department of Agriculture and Fisheries spokesman said no decision had been taken regarding whether Django would be fined, with the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol yet to complete its investigation.
Django said he would do it all over again if he saw marine life in danger, adding that he could deal with being fined. But he may get some support in paying the fine. People supporting him on social media started a GoFundMe page for him and donations have already poured in.