A baby humpback whale died after becoming entangled in shark nets off Australia’s Gold Coast on Friday morning, according to Australian media.
Local beachgoers notified lifeguards of the mother and calf in distress after seeing fins flailing around a shark net buoy.
It took the Department of Fisheries and Seaworld rescue crews two hours to arrive at the scene, at which point they found the calf dead, although the mother was still alive.
“The juvenile calf was caught around the pectoral fin and the mother just around the head,” said a Queensland Department of Primary Industries responder in the Nine News report.
The mother was successfully cut free from the net by the rescue team.
Southern Hemisphere Humpback whales migrate north annually from April to mid August to mate and birth their calves in warmer tropical waters. This approximately 3,100-mile journey is among one of the longest migrations for any mammal on the planet.
A string of fatal shark attacks in Australia over the last few years has resulted in outcry from some members of the community demanding greater protective measures for beach-goers.
But conservationists have voiced concerns about the ecological impact of nets on vulnerable shark populations, in addition to whales, dolphins, rays, turtles, and seals.
Due to uncertainty about the effectiveness of shark nets on reducing the number of shark attacks, the use of such nets in Australia has been a topic of much debate.
According to Taronga Conservation Society Australia, 2017 has seen 10 shark attacks in Australia so far, with one fatality.
Researchers at the University of Western Australia are working to devise less lethal shark-deterrants such as drones and wetsuits that mimic the poisonous banded sea snake, which sharks will avoid.