An escort whale, believed to be the calf’s mother, was acting “anxious and stressed” at the scene and was a concern for the rescue team.
“It’s honestly just getting the timing right … it’s kind of a balancing act,” she said. “I’ve been told that, just prior to [the calf] being freed, the escort whale did calm down. [The rescuers] have a really hard job.”
Ms O’Neill said it was “unfortunate” the whale was caught as the result of shark netting.
“We, as an organisation, do believe there are more effective ways to make swimmer feel comfortable,” she said.
“The less [sic] whales that can be caught the better.”
A spokesman for the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment said the whale was freed about 11am as a result of the efforts of a range of authorities, including the NSW Water Police and the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
“The NPWS whale disentanglement crew has reached the entangled whale off Dee Why and has successfully freed the whale, which is expected to continue its journey south,” he said.
“Congratulations to everyone involved for a successful outcome.”
The calf’s movements will not be tracked even though some netting is still attached to its body, as funding for the technology has been limited, Ms O’Neill said.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries said the whale was entangled in a shark mesh panel from the Queensland Shark Control Program, which it carried down the coast from Coolangatta or Noosa.
Figures from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries show that 510 sharks were captured by Queensland’s shark control program in 2017.
Of those, 377 died, 113 were euthanised and only 20 were released alive.
Sarah is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.