A mother whale recently had to watch helplessly as a rescue team worked to free her calf from a shark net. However, "shark net" isn't really a good name for something that indiscriminately traps anything that swims too close — not just sharks.
Fortunately, Seeker reported that the calf was freed after two hours of rescue labor.
The mom didn't leave the baby's side once.
Seeker reported that shark nets are prevalent in Australia where this whale was entangled. They're designed to keep sharks away from beaches — and away from people.
But the nets also catch animals they're not supposed to.
According to Seeker, from 2015 to 2016, Australia's 130 nets trapped 748 animals. Eighty-six percent of those were threatened or protected species.
Most weren't as lucky as the whale. Only two of the trapped 13 green sea turtles survived, and none of the 13 dolphins did.
The Newcastle Herald reported that 2017 wasn't much better. The Hunter and Central Coast area in New South Wales saw half of its trapped animals die. And of the 65 sharks caught in the nets, only 12 were species designed to be targeted by the net.
As for the whales, those who get caught up in fishing gear or beach nets can suffer a number of injuries. They can also drown if the net keeps them from surfacing to breathe.
This baby whale was caught by its fluke, which means it easily could have lost its tail if the netting had cut off its circulation.
It's what researchers suspect happened to this tail-less gray whale.
Australia's ABC News reported that the mother had likely been trapped at one point as well. But, being bigger and stronger, she had freed herself. Still, even if the calf had ripped free, it could have dragged part of the netting along as it swam.
As Azula previously reported, dragging gear around can cause long-term blubber loss due to overexertion. It can get in the way of the whale feeding, swimming and breeding properly.
If you think about how the nets surrounding Australia affect sea life, think about all the abandoned fishing gear in the water doing the same thing worldwide. NatGeo reported that 1.28 billion pounds of fishing nets get lost at sea each year.