Whale freed from nets after massive two-day rescue operation

UPDATE @ 5PM | A whale that became tangled in shark nets off the Gold Coast has finally been freed after a mammoth two-day mission by rescue crews.

The humpback was first spotted heavily entangled in nets on Wednesday morning off Snapper Rocks.

Teams from Sea World and the Department of Fisheries spent around 10 hours trying to free the whale on Wednesday but were forced to suspend the operation because of fading light.


Crews were back at it at first light on Thursday morning, finding the whale about 30 nautical miles offshore thanks to a satellite tracker they fitted to the humpback on Wednesday.

Teams spent another full day at sea in ‘difficult’ conditions before they managed to remove a large portion of the equipment that was still entangling the whale.

Sea World has confirmed that a small portion of the equipment couldn’t be cut free.

But the crews kept an eye on the whale which was able to swim freely before it was left to continue on its migration.

Sea World and Fisheries teams are now making the four-hour trip home.

EARLIER by Shanee Dobeson: A delicate operation to rescue a whale caught in shark nets off the Gold Coast has resumed at first light this morning.

It comes after crews from Sea World and the Department of Fisheries spent more than 10 hours attempting to free the heavily tangled eight-metre sub-adult humpback off Snapper Rocks yesterday, with no success.

The rescue operation was halted at sunset due to poor light, with Sea World confirming crews had fitted a tracker to the whale to monitor its movements throughout the night.

“Both teams spent all day trying collaboratively to remove the equipment but despite their best efforts some of the equipment remained entangled around the tail,” Sea World said in a statement.

“With the teams losing light, a satellite tracker was deployed to the whale to allow the rescue efforts to continue tomorrow.”

Sea World Head of Marine Sciences, Wayne Phillips, told myGC that it was an emotional day for the team.

“It was quite an emotional day trying to help an animal that large is very difficult and quite emotional for the team, but we are here back again this morning and ready to go again”.

Mr Phillips said the satellite tracker has detected the mammal around 30 nautical miles off the Tweed Coast this morning.

“It’s going to take us a while to get out there,” he said.

“But the weather looks good, which is in our favour, so once we find him we will do our best to get him free.”

The whale, which is understood to be suffering exhaustion, was first spotted by surfers off Snapper Rocks around 7am on Wednesday.

“The whale was looking quite lethargic by the end of the day and we’re quite surprised at how far he has actually travelled overnight,” Mr Phillips said.

“So that’s a good sign from a whale perspective, it may make our job harder the more energy the animal has the more difficult it is to work with them, but all in all I think it’s a pretty good sign for the whale.”


More to come.