MORE whales are likely to meet the same fate as the humpback that was stranded in a shark net off Merewether Beach on the weekend, a senior fisheries researcher believes.
The whale, which was seen in distress off the beach on Sunday, eventually broke the shark net from the ocean floor and continued on its way south. Authorities believe the net and one of its mooring anchors remains tangled around the whale.
“The nets used in NSW are quite light and we are hoping that it will slowly unravel as it goes along,” senior research scientist with the Department of Primary Industries Dr Vic Peddemors said.
It is thought the whale would have reached the NSW south coast by yesterday evening.
It is only the third time a whale has been reported tangled in a shark net off the NSW coastline since 1994.
Dr Peddemors said the east coast humpback whale population was growing at about 10 per cent per annum. As a result, the chances of whales getting tangled in nets and other fishing gear was also increasing.
“The whale watchers are reporting they are seeing more whales that have things like crab pots and long lines attached to them,” Dr Peddemors said.
Taronga Zoo, Macquarie University and the Office of Environment and Heritage are developing an alarm to steer whales away from potential traps.
The weekend’s incident follows the drowning of a four-metre great white shark in nets off Bar Beach last October. Dolphins, stingrays and turtles are among the other species that have been found drowned in the nets.
Surfrider Foundation of Australia Hunter branch president Chris Tola said more research into the alternatives to shark nets was needed.
“There are proven technologies, such as “pingers” [subsonic alarms] that can be used to deter sharks and keep our beaches safe,” he said.
“You have to accept that when you go into the ocean you are going into the sharks’ territory.”
A great white shark drowned in nets off Bar Beach last year.