A crew of humans braved the thrashing tail of a panicked humpback whale on Sunday and freed it from a shark net.
The 22-ton adolescent whale had traveled through a shark net near the Gold Coast off western Australia while on its migratory route. It was “completely enveloped” in netting by the time rescuers spotted it, Trevor Long of Sea World Australia told The Gold Coast Bulletin.
The whale was thrashing and rolling repeatedly in an effort to free itself from the net, which caused the lines to tighten around its tail and pectoral fins.
“They’ve got a fear of drowning, just like we have,” said Long. “They don’t understand the situation, they just want to escape the net.”
But the size of the whale and its panicked movements “made it quite a delicate rescue,” he added.
Rescuers on a small dinghy from the animal release team of the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Department approached the humpback with long poles attached to cutting instruments specially-designed to slice bits of netting.
After more than an hour of careful effort, the whale was finally free.
Each year, at least 30,000 whales migrate the more than 6,000 miles between Queensland and Antarctica. The young humpback was the fourth this migratory season to get ensnared in a net. Although shark nets are designed to protect swimmers at some 85 Australian beaches, they’re dangerous to sea life.
“These shark nets are indiscriminate killers ... whales, dolphins, turtles [are] caught,” said Long. “Not only is it a painful death, but it’s long and slow.”