Australian Man Could Face $27,000 Fine For Rescuing Whale Calf

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A fundraiser has raised over $12,000 in a single day to cover the cost of a man who may be fined for rescuing a whale calf trapped in a shark net in Australia.

An amateur diver freediving off the Gold Coast looking for manta rays on Tuesday, May 19, spotted the humpback calf caught up in shark nets, ABC News reports. The diver, who would only reveal his first name, Django, told reporters "adrenaline just sort of kicked in" as he got in his "tinny" (for non-Aussies, a small aluminum boat) and headed out to rescue the calf.

In dramatic footage, Django – who has been affectionately nicknamed the "tinny man" by the people raising money on his behalf – raced out and began to untangle the calf from the netting.

The whale's left pectoral fin was wrapped up in the shark netting, placed around beaches to prevent sharks from getting too close to the shore. According to Django, the whale was at a depth of around 8-9 meters (26-29 feet), and was pretty wrapped up in the rope. Whales are mammals, and need to breathe air. Being held underwater for a prolonged length of time means whales can actually drown.

After the whale was first spotted by a documentary crew using drones at 7am, local authorities were called, but after waiting two hours for a response Django launched his one-man rescue missions, all documented by the crew, The Telegraph reports. The authorities turned up at 9.45am.  

Django had a dive knife on him, but was able to untangle the whale without using it, after emerging from the water to get air several times. "It was pretty cut up. It was really cut up, actually," he told ABC News. "The net was actually going into its flesh".

Nevertheless, the whale was freed and swam away into the ocean. At which point, ABC News reports, Django was paid a visit by fisheries officers, who he said threatened him with a fine. Django declined to confirm the fine amount, but people who interfere with shark nets – deemed controversial by some divers and surfers for entangling sharks – can face up to AUS$26,690 in penalties. At the time of writing, Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner confirmed they are investigating the events but says Django has not been fined yet.

"It is important that people allow the professionals to do their jobs in circumstances like this," Furner said in a video interview with ABC. “It is dangerous equipment. We have unfortunately seen the loss of life when people have themselves become entangled in this equipment. It will be up to the department to consider whether this gentleman will be prosecuted.”

However, a GoFundMe was quickly set up to raise funds for Django, who is being hailed a "local legend," just in case he is fined, with any surplus money going into humpback conservation and whale research.

"This page is to cover the cost of his fine, as we are unsure yet what that amount will be (AUS$1,300- $55,000)," the organizers write. "Any money raised over and above his fine will go to a charity that specializes in research & education for these great mammals."

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