Three whales in as many days have become hopelessly tangled in shark nets as they embark on their migration route along Australia’s west coast.
One of those incidents occurred this morning around 6.30am when a 8m to 10m young whale of an unknown gender was found tangled in a shark net off Surfers Paradise.
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Sea World Rescue and the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol’s (QBFP) Marine Animal Release Team rushed to the scene.
They spent at least an hour cutting the massive marine mammal free using a specialised curved knife.
Sea World Head of Marine Sciences Wayne Phillips said the latest rescue was complex because the whale snapped an anchor line and trapped itself.
“The whale was quite entangled,” Mr Phillips said. “Mainly over the head and right (pectoral fin), which was obviously stopping it from moving,”
However, “within about an hour the guys had the whale free and released and swimming on its merry way”, according to Mr Phillips.
On Friday, news.com.au reported on rescuers freeing a mother and a calf which became tangled in shark nets off Main Beach, also in Queensland.
This morning’s incident comes just a day after a petition to remove shark nets reached over 44,000 signatures.
“The large mesh size of the nets is designed specifically to capture sharks and prevent their escape until eventually, they drown,” the petition reads.
However, the fear is that the same could happen for whales.
“This design also results in incidence of bycatch, including threatened and endangered species like sea turtles, dugongs, dolphins and whales.
“Alternatives such as drone technology, surf lifesaving patrols, public education on shark behaviour, radio signals, sonar technology, buoys that emit sounds and electric nets should be considered.”
Experts also acknowledged that whales will continue to get caught in nets as their migration season continue.
“We are going to see more whale entanglements because the population is so healthy that travels along this route,” Mr Phillips warned.
“We would like to see less nets during the whale migration and we are working with the Fisheries Department on that.”
Mr Phillips said replacing nets with smart drumlines was “the messaging that we’re pushing out for our Fisheries friends”.
However, Mr Phillips acknowledged the Queensland government was in a “difficult situation”.
Sharks pose a significant threat to swimmers, and governments are reluctant to remove nets.
Earlier this month, 60-year-old Rob Pedretti was mauled by a three-metre great white at Salt Beach near Kingscliff.
He died from his injuries.