Updated: August 14, 2021 10:23:15 am
In a mission that lasted for nearly 2 days, Australian marine rescuers joined their forces to free a humpback whale, which was entangled in a shark net off the Queensland’s Gold Coast. Video of the rescuers working against time to free the struggling whale has started a serious debate about Australia’s shark control nets.
Workers from Sea World and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries tried for much of Wednesday to free the young humpback, as it let out loud cries in a desperate attempt to free itself.
Footage going viral showed rescuers working hard even on Thursday — reaching out with blades at the end of long poles trying to cut a large mess of tangled net with orange buoys and yellow weights caught around the whale’s tail.
On Wednesday, rescue attempts were abandoned after 10 hours as darkness fell, following what Sea World head of marine sciences Wayne Phillips dubbed as an “emotional” day. The teams attached a satellite tracker to the whale and it has been pinned at 30 nautical miles off the Tweed Coast this morning, ABC Net reported.
Finally, after a marathon mission, which lasted for two days, the humpback whale was freed. However, the mammal still has some of the gear wound around its tail, 7 News reported.
The rescue team had to release the whale off Coolangatta without completely freeing it from the net due to difficult conditions at sea, The Australian explained.
The whale was released on Thursday with “a length of anchor chain and large shark net buoys still attached”, Sea Shepherd Australia said. “The buoys have been deflated by the rescue team to allow the whale to dive”, it added in a statement saying experts are still concerned about the whale’s survival.
Conservation groups have long been calling for the removal of shark control nets, especially during whale migration season. Arguing that humans swimming near the coast can be protected with far less harmful tools to the sea animals.
“Scientists and experts employed by Queensland’s shark control program have told the minister the shark nets should be removed during whale migration season,” marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck was quoted by News.au. “Why isn’t the minister heeding the advice of his experts?”
According to Reuters six whales were entangled in shark nets on the Gold Coast in 2020 and all were successfully released, shark control programme manager Michael Mikitis said.