Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Baby Whales Caught in Shark Nets

Article from Goldcoast News

Whale freed from Burleigh shark nets

SHARK nets damaged during this morning's rescue of a humpback whale calf off the Gold Coast will be replaced later this afternoon.

More calls for removal of the shark nets during whale migration season appear to be falling in deaf ears, despite five whales being entangled this season.

This morning's rescue was the fourth in less than three weeks.

The calf was caught in the shark nets about 500m from the Burleigh Mowbray Surf Lifesaving Club.

Rescue teams from Sea World and the Department of Fisheries took about two hours to free the baby, hampered by a distressed mother whale concerned for its baby.

There were are at least two other mature whales near the nets with onlookers reporting up to five whales in the area.

At one stage rescuers had to move their boat away as the frantic parent was thrashing dangerously close to the rescue boat.

They then positioned a larger boat between the whale and the nets in a bid to protect the rescue team as it tried to free the calf.

It is believed the whale calf became trapped about 5.30am. Rescue teams arrived about 7.30am while a crowd of about 100 people watched the rescue from Burleigh Point.

Queensland Shark Control Program Manager Tony Ham said public assistance was needed with reporting suspected entanglements.

"The sooner we know that we have an entanglement, the better chance we have of a successful release," he said.

"Anyone who sees a whale or other marine life entangled in shark control equipment can call the 24-hour hotline on 1800 806 891.

"With a significant increase in the whale population - approximately 12,000 now migrating each season - entanglements are anticipated at this time of year as the population makes its journey back to southern waters," Mr Ham said.

Including today's entanglement, since 2000 28 whales have been caught in shark control equipment in Queensland.

Of these entanglements, 25 whales have been successfully released.

A comment from a reader of the article online:

"What will it take for something to be done about moving the nets? I'll tell you what, a rescuer being drowned trying to conduct a save, or crushed by a frantic mother whale while trying to rescue her calf. It's only a matter of a few weeks, and the nets only 'protect' a fraction of the beach anyway, they're more psychological than physical assurance. Shark numbers are in decline worldwide through over fishing too, so removing the nets during migration times makes sense, and yes, I'm a surfer! "
Glen Crawford

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