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‘Hero in a tinny’ whale rescuer slammed by Queensland authorities

Authorities in Queensland have lashed this week’s ‘hero in a tinny’ who raced to free a trapped whale calf from a shark net off the Gold Coast. The man, who gave his name as Django, was praised by Australians when news of his brave actions sparked headlines on Tuesday.Worried onlookers had gathered on the sand…

Authorities in Queensland have lashed this week’s ‘hero in a tinny’ who raced to free a trapped whale calf from a shark net off the Gold Coast.

The man, who gave his name as Django, was praised by Australians when news of his brave actions sparked headlines on Tuesday.

Worried onlookers had gathered on the sand at Burleigh Heads after a drone operator spotted the mammal tangled in a shark net about 7am.

Django reportedly became frustrated at the lengthy delay of Fisheries officers in arriving and took matters into his own hands, getting in his tinny, making his way to the animal and then leaping into the water to free it.

His heroics looked set to come at a hefty cost, with Django facing thousands of dollars in fines for entering an exclusion zone and interfering with equipment.

A Fisheries Queensland spokesperson has confirmed that the man has been slapped with two infringement notices.

“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),” a spokesperson said.

“This is consistent with the general approach of the QBFP to consider education and awareness before imposing harsher penalties. However, he – or others – may not be so lucky should there be a next time.”

The government agency slammed the man’s actions, describing them as “reckless and completely unnecessary”.

“To be clear, this incident could have had a tragic outcome. The actions we saw earlier this week were reckless and completely unnecessary,” the spokesperson said.

It also disputed reports that its rescue was taking too long to get under way, saying: “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.”

Hours after his impromptu rescue on Tuesday, Django told reporters that he was intercepted by Fisheries authorities as he made his way back to shore.

“Yeah I’m in trouble. I wasn’t going out there to see whales. It was an expensive day but whatever … you pay the price sometimes. I didn’t think about what the fine was,” he said.

Reports of a potential fine sparked anger online, with a GoFundMe established to help Django pay the penalty.

It has so far raised $15,800 from 654 donations. It’s not clear what will happen to the money now.

Fisheries Queensland said a surfer drowned after becoming entangled in a shark net in 1992.

“This is why there is a 20-metre exclusion zone around shark control equipment.”

Anyone who sees an animal entangled in nets should not approach it and instead call the Shark Control Program hotline on 1800 806 891, it said.

“MART trains every year for whale rescue situations and has the necessary equipment to undertake a safe rescue. We have an outstanding record of successfully releasing whales.

“Tens of thousands of whales migrate along our coast every year. In 2019, there were just six whale entanglements, including three on the Gold Coast, and all were successfully released.”

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