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Whale hero escapes massive fine after rescuing calf from shark net

A Queensland man who was threatened with thousands of dollars in fines after saving a drowning baby whale from a shark net on Tuesday has escaped with a formal warning.The man, known only as Django, was hailed a hero after he took his tinny into waters off Burleigh Beach to save the whale calf, cutting…

A Queensland man who was threatened with thousands of dollars in fines after saving a drowning baby whale from a shark net on Tuesday has escaped with a formal warning.

The man, known only as Django, was hailed a hero after he took his tinny into waters off Burleigh Beach to save the whale calf, cutting the animal’s pectoral fin free allowing the mammal to swim away.

But when his brave act caught media attention, Django was approached by fisheries officials who told him they planned to fine him for tampering with a shark net.

According to a report from 9 News, he could have been fined up to $27,000.

A fundraising page raised nearly $15,000 in donations in less than 24 hours to help the diver foot the fine.

But an update from the page’s organiser on Thursday, announced Django had been let off with a formal warning.

“It has just been announced that Django will not be fined for his heroic efforts. He will now only receive a formal caution from the QLD Fisheries Department,” Dale Harris said.

“This is an outstanding result. Together, our voices have sought justice for this local legend and helped overturn this potential fine.”

Mr Harris said Django now wanted the money to go towards Sea Shepherd Australia, an organisation dedicated to protecting and conserving oceans and marine life.

“We are in direct contact with Sea Shepherd Australia and it will share an update on how your donations will help protect our local oceans within the next few days,” Mr Harris said.

Anyone who did not want their donation to go to the charity would be able to request a refund, he said.

“We cannot thank you all enough for your overwhelming response for our legend whale saver. This fundraiser has demonstrated the power of our community to advocate to protect our marine life and support our local heroes,” Mr Harris added.

Many donors had described Django as “courageous” and “a legend in the eyes of the local community”.

Today hosts Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon were outraged at the idea Django would be slapped with a fine after rescuing the baby whale.

“It would be very un-Australian if he gets fined,” Stefanovic said.

“It wouldn’t be a good PR move,” Langdon agreed.

Asked about the fine, Django said he’d seen the officials while out in the water, and they later visited him at his home in wet suits to discuss the amount.

“They were in wet suits. They weren’t going out to fine someone out that day, they were going out to save a whale so they didn’t have any paperwork on them. This is their words,” he said.

He said he wasn’t “stressed” so long as the fine didn’t “continue to grow”. “It wasn’t a couple of hundred bucks,” he added.

Reports suggested the Department of Fisheries own rescue of the whale calf had been delayed yesterday by a “suspected communication issue” according to MyGC.com.au.

Django told the Today show he always went diving with a knife and wasn’t afraid to jump in, after the whale calf was spotted by a drone operator.

“I was going straight in,” he said.

“I’m not scared of it, to be honest. Obviously it was dangerous. I wouldn’t recommend everyone go and do it, it’s highly dangerous.

“But it’s done. I didn’t drown. It was all good. I wouldn’t recommend anyone doing it.”

Django also hosed down suggestions the whale “thanked” him.

“I didn’t get a thank you,” he said. “It just took off.

“I was thanking it for not drowning me.”

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