VIDEO: The Moment A Newborn Whale Is Freed From A Shark Net
A newborn humpback whale in serious distress after being caught in a shark net has at last been freed, and reunited with its mother.
Both mum and calf got caught in the net off Greenmount Beach in Queensland, a popular and strategic feeding and rest point for newborn calfs on the annual migration to colder southern waters.
The mum managed to "punch" through the net and free herself, said Trevor Long, director of marine sciences at Sea World, but the poor calf was trapped.
"It was in a lot of distress," Long said. "We think it had been in the net for quite some time."
The calf, which he estimates was only two or three weeks old, had its head and both pectoral fins trapped.
It also suffered injuries while trying to free itself from the net.
"There were a lot of superficial wounds where the skin had been rubbed raw, right down to a red, raw stage," Long said.
After an initial assessment -- and with the mum closely watching -- Long's team tied up the rest of the netting, released the head and fins first, and then finally, the tail.
"It was a wonderful moment," said Long, adding that both whales breached almost immediately afterwards in a show of joy.
"I believe the mum knew we were trying to help, because if she thought we were trying to cause her calf harm, she would interfere."
There was a moment where the whole situation could have ended very differently, however, when the calf tried to break free but couldn't, becoming trapped below the surface.
"We were all very worried about it."
It's one of the reasons he's been trying for years to get the Queensland government to remove the shark nets and replace them with drum lines, which he says are much more effective for controlling sharks and don't accidentally catch any other animals that cross its path.
Three beach spots in particular -- Kirra, Bilinga, and Greenmount, where this incident occurred -- are strategic spots for mother whales to bring their newborn calfs to feed and rest, during the long migration south.
It's a big issue, said Long, and one that means they're involved in whale rescues every year.
"We've tried to convince the government to remove the nets," he said, but to no avail.
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Lead photo: supplied.