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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Whale caught in Gold Coast shark net – again

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The whale thrashing its tail very close to the rescue boat. Photo ABC News.

Yesterday a humpback whale was found in a shark net at Main Beach on the Gold Coast in Queensland. The whale was in the net for up to four hours before it could be released near Southport. This follows on from a humpback whale being caught in a shark net at Rainbow Beach in Queensland’s north-east last week.

‘This entanglement again demonstrates the futility of the Gold Coast tourism industry’s nonsensical backing of the shark nets,’ says shark campaigner and Sea Shepherd Australia spokesperson Jonathan Clark.

‘Shark nets do nothing for human safety. They provide a false sense of safety whilst quietly killing the variety of sea life that ought to be protected. Whales, sharks, rays, dolphins, birds, dugongs and turtles are all casualties.’

A baby whale was caught in a shark net at the Gold Coast in October 2018 and in 2017 eight humpback whales were caught in shark nets along the Queensland coast. A range of species are expected to be caught in nets during this years migration season say Sea Shepherd.

‘Whilst the Queensland government enacts draconian exclusion zone laws to prevent transparency of the devastation caused by these nets, animals continue to be entrapped,’ said Mr Clark.

‘This is what they don’t want you to see. However, it’s an unavoidable consequence of putting these 186m long fishing nets on the humpback highway.’

Whale released

Queensland shark control program manager Jeff Krause said a Gold Coast-based Marine Animal Release Team (MART), with assistance from Sea World, worked to release the 7-8 metre whale free from the nets at approximately 11.35am yesterday.

‘We activated MART after the whale entanglement was reported at 7.50am this morning by Queensland boating and fisheries patrol Gold Coast district manager Rob McDonald,’ Mr Krause said.

‘The whale was breathing and in a calm state while it was being released and swam away strongly.’

‘Successfully releasing whales is dangerous work at the best of times and today’s release was complicated by the choppy sea conditions on the Gold Coast.’

Mr Krause said whale entanglements in shark nets were rare events.

‘Queensland now has more than 33,000 whales pass along our coast every year and, since 2006, MART has successfully released all but two of the 52 whales that were tangled in nets,’ Mr Krause said.

‘During the 2018 humpback whale migration, six whales were caught in Shark Control Program apparatus and all were successfully released.’

North coast shark nets

A trial of shark nets at five beaches on the North Coast of NSW in 2016/17 was abandoned in 2018 after the trial revealed that nets had ‘killed twice as many dolphins as they had caught target sharks in the second trial’. This was compounded by  a significant number of other endangered species including protected species like the endangered Loggerhead Turtles being caught and dying.

Call for shark net removal

The Humane Society International (HSI) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) have both called for the immediate removal of shark nets and at a minimum that they should be removed during the whale migration season like the NSW government.

‘Whales are caught every year in shark nets in Queensland. The fact another whale has been ensnared is horrifying but not surprising. Every year this happens, and every year we ask the Queensland government to take out the nets. Every year these calls fall on deaf ears. There are better, non-lethal ways to protect both people and marine wildlife,’ said Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Campaigner at HSI.

HSI and AMCS have recently sent a 100,000 signature petition to the Queensland government to cease the culling of sharks in the Great Barrier Reef and to implement non-lethal alternatives throughout the state.

The Queensland government has also recently enacted an exclusion zone law which prevents conservation groups from documenting shark nets and drumlines throughout the state. 

Report animals caught in shark nets

The Queensland Shark Control Program has a 24 hour toll-free hotline number for reporting entangled animals which is 1800 806 891.

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