October 17th, 2016. A humpback whale and her calf became entangled in shark nets off Australia’s Gold Coast as debate about using the nets heats up.
Rescuers from SW and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol worked to cut the animals free as they struggled near Coolangatta Beach on Saturday.
The teams worked together using specialised cutting equipment while the mother whale kept her four-metre calf near the surface.
Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol spokesman Mark Saul said conditions and the whales themselves were calm, which sped up the rescue.
“Mum had just pushed into the nets slightly to help keep the calf up on the surface which she was doing quite well,” he told the ABC.
“After a few cuts, a bit of mesh away, they both just swam away to the south-east.
‘It swam away with its mother to the south, in good health and condition.”
The whales’ rescue comes amid increased debate about the use of shark nets to protect beaches in NSW and around the country after a spate of shark attacks.
NSW Premier Mike Baird on Wednesday dropped his opposition to shark nets on the state’s northern beaches after a surfer was bitten near Ballina in the area’s sixth attack since the start of 2015.
Baird had until then heeded scientific advice but explained his latest backflip as the need to “prioritise human life over everything”.
Experts say there is little evidence nets alone make beaches safer as they are 150 metres long and about six metres deep, allowing plenty of space for sharks to get around, over or under them.
They have killed 116 of the 189 marine animals caught in them during 2014-15 – only 44 of which were white, tiger and bull sharks the nets are designed to stop.
Ballina mayor David Wright is opposed to the nets, but locals are fearful of more attacks with body and surf board sales at the local surf shop diving 90 per cent after two incidents in as many weeks.