A whale swims away after being freed from shark nets at Rainbow Beach.
A whale swims away after being freed from shark nets at Rainbow Beach. Fisheries Queensland

Shark nets catch their first humpback of the season

UPDATE 4PM: An innocent passer-by has been caught up in shark nets which, according to an ocean advocate, offer no more than perception of public safety.

A Queensland Boating and Fisheries patrol freed a humpback whale, measuring between 7m and 8m, from shark nets off Rainbow Beach about 1.15pm Friday.

It came after a surf lifesaver had reported the entangled mammal, listed as a threatened species, earlier that morning.  

Rainbow Beach resident Luke Pettigrew said seeing the animal caught up made for confronting viewing from the shore.  

It was the first time he had seen one caught in nets.  

"It's not good to see them in this situation," Mr Pettigrew said.  

Queensland Shark Control Program manager Jeff Krause said the whale was breathing and in a calm condition while it was being released and swam away strongly after being freed.  

"Today's successful release is further evidence that the highly skilled Marine Animal Release Team crews, located at Mackay, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, are at the forefront in the safe release techniques of these animals," Mr Krause said.  

Surfrider Foundation Sunshine Coast president Stephen James said while he understood people's perception that shark nets and drumlines increased swimmer safety, he didn't believe it was proven.  

His stance was based on local knowledge of where shark protection apparatus was established and where it wasn't.   In terms of attacks, he said there had been no difference.  

A humpback whale is caught in shark nets off Rainbow Beach.
A humpback whale is caught in shark nets off Rainbow Beach. Luke Pettigrew

He said advances in technology meant drones and tagging could provide monitoring of beaches without the indiscriminate netting approach.  

"The removal of nets and drumlines is our preference," Mr James said.  

Mr Krause said the whale was the first to be caught in shark apparatus this migration season.  

"Queensland is blessed to have an estimated more than 33,000 whales pass along our coast every year," Mr Krause said.  

"Since 2006, the Fisheries Queensland Marine Animal Release teams have successfully released all but two whales.

"During the 2018 humpback whale migration six whales were caught in shark control program apparatus and all were successfully released alive."   

To report an entangled animal call 1800 806 891.  

UPDATE 1.45PM: A Department of Agriculture and Fisheries spokesman says a whale caught in shark nets off Rainbow Beach has been freed.

He said the mammal was freed about 1.15pm and the department had shot video footage of it swimming away.

UPDATE 12.45PM: MORE vessels have arrived to tend to a humpback whale caught in shark nets.

Witness Luke Pettigrew said fisheries officers were helping the whale, caught in nets off Rainbow Beach, and were warning other watercraft to stay at least 500m away.

EARLIER: A HUMPBACK whale is stranded in shark nets at a popular coastal holiday town in a distressing scene that has a witness concerned it will not survive.

Rainbow Beach resident Luke Pettigrew, 30, said the "fully-grown" whale was floating between three buoys about 200 or 300m from the shore on Friday morning.

Mr Pettigrew said a small group of people were watching from a lookout near the surf club.

He said the only vessel in the water was a small dinghy with two people on board.

He thought they were tending to the shark net.

"It's just like a big adult just floating on the surface," Mr Pettigrew said.

He said it looked pretty calm and said it was possible the mammal had been there through the night.

"It looks like it is tuckered out.

"It could be on its last legs, I'm not sure."

He said it seemed to be breathing every 10 minutes or so and was not thrashing around.

It was the first time he had seen one caught in nets.

"It's not good to see them in this situation."

He said he understood rescue teams had been alerted and were on their way.

"There's only one vessel in the water."



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