Whale rescue at Byron Bay complete success as humpback swims free

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A dramatic rescue operation on the New South Wales north coast ended successfully on Tuesday night when a male juvenile was cut free of nylon ropes, a buoy and fishing nets.

The distressed 10-metre whale had been spotted at first light 100m off Main Beach at Byron Bay and hundreds of people soon gathered.

Rangers from National Parks and Wildlife shadowed the whale in a boat while the specialist disentanglement team from the Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries rushed from Queensland.

A humpback whale in the waters of Hervey Bay Marine Park, Queensland. Photograph: Air Fraser Island/AAP

“We attached buoys to it just to slow it down,” said ranger Sean Court. “It took off a few times. We just stayed with with it. We didn’t want to harass it and make it all flighty. Thankfully a couple of times it slowed down and had a rest and while it was resting we cut the ropes off.

“Dealing with whales is a pretty tricky thing. They don’t just sit still and let you come and cut things off them.”

It took about 45 minutes to cut off all the roping.

Lawrence Orel, spokesman for National Parks and Wildlife, said freeing whales from fishing gear and detritus found in the oceans was “complex. A 40-tonne animal that is agitated and distressed is very dangerous.”

But on Tuesday there were perfect conditions for a rescue: very little wind and no swell.

Court said that once the whale was free, “it stopped and looked at us and did this thing called spy hopping. We were having a chat about how the day went and it was just sticking its head out of the water and bobbing up and down and looking at what was going on.

“It was interesting behaviour that was for sure. Just to stay with the boats for 15 or 20 minutes once we had taken all the gear off.”

Court said that by the time it headed back out to the ocean the rescue team was sure it was healthy.

“All its signs were good,” he said.

This article was written by for The Guardian.


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David Brown
David Brown
Jim Kerr
Jim Kerr

Mark. Awesome video. What most do not realize is animals have feelings, intelligence, can communicate, and all have different personalities same as we do. We are called to have dominion over all animals and creatures on the earth. What mankind has failed to realize is what God intended and commanded us to do. In the definition of the word "dominion" one of the references is ""take dominion" over the earth. Meaning they were to act as God's stewards in care for, guarding and controlling what happens on the earth. Somehow mankind has failed in this area on numerous subjects. Thanks… Read more »

Thoths Apprentice
Thoths Apprentice

We dont even know how long they live. For all we know they may live for a millennia. You can gain a wealth of knowledge in 10 life times. Someone needs to put Japan in check along with Israel.

Susan Frudd

An intelligent animal. The behaviour really shows it understood and was grateful for the help it received. amazing and beautiful we should leave them in peace.

Sarah Mayhew

Always wonderful to hear these stories.

Mark McCandlish

The behavior of that Humpback Whale after it was freed should be more than enough evidence that it understood what those human rescuers did for it and it was appreciative. Cetaceans are far more intelligent than many give them credit for. I's time to end commercial and Native whaling for good.