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Byron Shire
May 9, 2021

No fine for Burleigh local who saved baby whale

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Fisheries Queensland have responded to questions from Echonedaily stating that they have ‘served a Gold Coast man with two Fisheries Infringement Notices (FINs) after he entered the exclusion zone around Shark Control program equipment off Burleigh Heads and interfered with that gear.

‘On this occasion he is not being given a monetary fine because he has no previous record of infringements with the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol (QBFP),’ said the Fisheries Queensland spokesperson.

Fisheries Queensland have stated that the Marine Animal Rescue Team (MART) was just minutes away when this person went into the water

‘He put himself in serious danger, as well as potentially injuring the whale, and creating a situation where MART could have been at significant risk trying to rescue a trapped swimmer next to the thrashing whale,’ the Fisheries Queensland spokesperson told Echonetdaily.

‘In 1992, a surfer drowned after becoming entangled by shark control equipment. This is why there is a 20 metre exclusion zone around shark control equipment.

If you see an entangled animal DO NOT approach or try to release it. Call the Shark Control Program hotline on 1800 806 891 and let the trained and properly equipped experts do their job.

‘MART trains every year for whale rescue situations, and has the necessary equipment to undertake a safe rescue.’

The money raised via the Go Fund Me page to assist Django with fines and legal costs will now be donated to Sea Shepherd, Humane Society Australia and Australian Marine Conservation Society.

‘If you would prefer your donation refunded, please contact us or withdraw your donation via Go Fund Me,’ stated Tim, who helped organise the page, in comments below.

‘We will very soon be withdrawing funds and closing the Go Fund Me. If you need anything further from us please contact Envoy Film via Facebook.

Original story

When a baby humpback whale was discovered caught up in a shark net off the coast at Burleigh Heads on Tuesday morning a rescue mission by Sea World was ready to go into action. But it is alleged that Queensland Fisheries failed to provide the final approval for Sea World to rescue the whale.

A local diver called Django Hopkins, AKA Tinny Man, decided to free the whale himself and is facing combined fines of potentially over $90,000.

‘Apparently Sea World was notified to assist the whale escape from the shark net entanglement yet they could not get the final permission from the Queensland Fisheries department,’ said Dean Jefferys who is a long time campaigner against shark nets.

‘Two and a half hours later [after the whale was discovered caught in the shark net] and with no Sea World rescue in sight the brave diver, Django, motored out to the trapped whale and armed with just a sharp knife and plenty of courage help the whale escape the shark nets and now the baby whale is swimming free.’

Local diver Django decided to free the whale himself and is facing combined fines of potentially over $90,000.

Go Fund Me

Responding to the threat of fines for his actions in rescuing the baby whale a Go Fund Me page has been set up to support Django with either paying the fines or to pay a legal team to fight the fines.

According to the page ‘The maximum fines are $26,000 for entering the 20m exclusion zone around shark control program equipment, PLUS $66,725 for tampering with it’.

‘There have been over 50,000 marine creatures killed in these dangerous and ineffective shark nets over the last 70 years,’ said Mr Jefferys.

‘There are now many more effective ways to avoid and unwanted shark encounter such as the use of real time drones that are being rolled out in NSW beaches through the surf life saving clubs.

‘[This] shows the weakness of this disentanglement process and the dangers of shark nets on our precious marine life. When the Tinny Man stepped in to fill this rescue gap he was threatened with a fine for doing a rescue that was botched up by the various authorities. No one should need permission to save a life. How would we respond if it was a human drowning? We wouldn’t wait for two or three hours to get permission while a human drowned. Why should it be any different for a whale or dolphin?

‘It’s time for the Queensland government and the fisheries department to realise it is now time to remove these shark nets and replace them with a processes that actually work and doesn’t kill marine life.’

Mr Jefferys has also now set up a ‘Free Whales from Shark nets’ Facebook page aimed at people who are ‘marine loving people are prepared to bypass the normal permission process to rescue a whale from shark net or strandings and worry about repercussions later’.

So far the Go Fund Me page has raised $7,115 from 290 people. Any extra funds raised will be donated to Sea Shepherd, Humane Society Australia & Australian Marine Conservation Society.

A recent update on the page says that Django has been fined but that the amount of the fine has yet to be determined.

♦ Queensland Fisheries were contacted for comment but had not responded by time of publication.

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  1. YEAH – The fine has been revoked:

    WE DIT IT!

    Sanity prevails! No fine for the Tinny Man

    We’ve been in contact with Django the #TinnyMan and can confirm that the Department of Fisheries has withdrawn their fine due to “Having no previous record of infringements with QBFP.”

    As originally stated in the campaign, and agreed on with Django, any funds not needed to cover fines would be donated to Sea Shepherd, Humane Society Australia & Australian Marine Conservation Society.

    If you would prefer your donation refunded, please contact us or withdraw your donation via GoFundMe.

    We will very soon be withdrawing funds and closing the Go Fund Me. If you need anything further from us please contact Envoy Film via Facebook.

  2. Not Fined !
    That is not good enough, any law that could possibly deter this, heroic,just and comendable action,must be
    repealed and those responsible for those nets should be never again be allowed to endanger our wildlife in the future. These people are guilty of gross incompetence.
    Well done and thank you Django Hopkins, it is so good to see decent citizens righting the wrongs caused by inept authorities.
    Cheers, G”)

  3. Threatening someone with a $92,000 fine for rescuing a whale or any sea creature from certain death in an antiquated stark net system shows the level of desperation the QLD fisheries are up to, to stop people filming marine deaths and being involved in anyway with monitoring or rescuing animals from shark nets. We are dealing with 80 year old technology and people who support shark nets are living in the dark ages and controlled by an unrealistic fear of death. If Queensland wants tourist to return, then Queensland should be know for its love and respect for its marine live and not its total disregard, or people may just decide to go else where. Its time for the QLD and NSW governments and the Fisheries departments to realise it is now time to remove these dangerous and ineffective shark nets and replace them with a processes that actually work and doesn’t kill marine life. Maybe more tourist will come to Byron where we use drone surveillance and respect out marine environment.

  4. Good on you! Just goes to show 1. How stupid the nets are and how they can kill sea life, 2. How bureaucratic red tape can mean an animal dies, 3. That it;s worth the risk to save a life.
    Would love to see this used as much as possible to get the nets taken down.

  5. Questions need to be asked of Queensland Fisheries:
    1. Why was permission withheld from SeaWorld to rescue the whale
    2. Why were they unable to do the rescue timeously.
    Queensland taxpayers need to know that they are efficiently run and if not why not.


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