A Gold Coast man who was facing a hefty fine worth up to $30,000 for jumping into the water to free a baby whale trapped in shark nets has escaped with a warning.
The local man, identified only as Django, spotted the distressed baby whale caught in nets off Burleigh Heads while he was in his tinny around 9.00am on Tuesday.
He then leapt into action by jumping into the water and cutting the youngster free.
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Despite being praised as a hero by fellow Aussies around the country, the man’s actions prompted an investigation by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries because of the laws surrounding interfering with shark equipment in Queensland waters.
He was facing fines up to a whopping $30,000, but the department confirmed in a statement on Thursday that Django had escaped punishment because he has “no previous record of infringements with the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol.”
The Currumbin local, dubbed ‘tinny man’ was instead issued with two Fisheries Infringement Notices but will not receive a monetary fine.
“However, he – or others – may not be so lucky should there be a next time,” a spokesperson for the Department said.
“To be clear – this incident could have had a tragic outcome. The actions we saw earlier this week were reckless and completely unnecessary.
“The Marine Animal Rescue Team 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.”
A fundraiser which was set up to help Django cover the costs of any potential fine he may receive as a result of the whale rescue had hit the $16,000 mark on Thursday afternoon.
The couple behind the fundraiser says all funds will now be donated directly to the charity Sea Shepard Australia, at Django’s request.
“This remarkable organisation is dedicated towards protecting and conserving our 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,” an update on the fundraising page reads.
“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.”
Anyone who may have donated and would prefer a refund will also be able to do so.
“We understand that many of you originally donated to help Django cover the potential fine and may wish to seek a refund. If you don’t wish for your donation to go directly to Sea Shepherd, please contact the GoFundMe Customer Happiness team (https://bit.ly/383h679) directly to request a refund,” the fundraiser creators said.
“All applications for refunds submitted before 29 May 2020 will be honoured.”