July 10th, 2016 (Drew Creighton). A whale has been cut free from shark nets on the Gold Coast on Saturday afternoon.
The Sea rescue team was called out after boating and fisheries officers failed in their attempt to free the large sea mammal.
Sea spokeswoman Marnie Horton said they had received a call about midday that a whale had some shark net trapped on it’s head.
“When we got there the boating and fisheries patrol had two vessels out there and they had already started trying to attempt to cut some of the net off the animal’s head, but they weren’t having much luck at that stage,” Ms Horton said.
“Then they changed tack and they put some floats on the animal and that’s generally what we do to try and slow the animal down a bit, because the animal was still mobile.
“So we had to make sure that we could get close to it and that is the most difficult thing to do is to try and slow down a whale that maybe weighs eight to 10 tonne.”
Ms Horton said the rescue was a tricky operation as the net was stuck around the animal’s head all the way down to it’s tail.
“It was quite a distressed animal, it was breathing very very fast and hard, it was rolling around, it was throwing it’s tail up in the air and it was also spy hopping which means it was bringing it’s head up out of the water,” she said.
“An animal like that with a net on it’s head, if it had it on there for long term, ultimately it can affect it’s feeding… and then it would eventually possibly starve to death.”
The rescuers had to be careful with the operation as the distressed animal was moving around quite a bit.
“When it’s [the net] underneath the whale they generally don’t roll over on their back and just give you access to the net.
“So you really have to wait for the animal to sort of spy-hop or put it’s head up out of the water to get close enough to cut the net away.”
In the end they freed the whale after a small amount of cutting and it escaped with a few superficial nicks and scrapes around the base of it’s tail.
It is only the beginning of the whale season and, for the Sea team, the rescue season has begun early.
“It is probably in only the first third of the season, so things will probably be hotting up over the next month and a half,” Ms Horton said.
“Then going into September you will see them going past with their calves as well.
“For us we get most of our call-outs around August, there’s usually about a six week period, August and early September.”