LIFE SAVER: Kakay tour leader Tyron van Santen, of Epic Ocean Adventures, takes to the water off Rainbow Beach to help a whale struggling with rope.
LIFE SAVER: Kakay tour leader Tyron van Santen, of Epic Ocean Adventures, takes to the water off Rainbow Beach to help a whale struggling with rope. Warren Lynam

Whale 'asks' Double Island kayakers for help

A HUMPBACK whale entangled by rope has seemingly approached a group of kayakers off Rainbow Beach for help.

The leader of the kayak tour group slipped into the water next to the whale to remove the rope but was only partially successful.

Tyron van Santen, of Epic Ocean Adventures, who was leading the Wednesday morning tour, said he was convinced the whale approached the tour group for assistance.

"The way it came up to me... I've been on the ocean for many years, I know wild animals - they can be curious but this thing was asking for help," he said.

Mr van Santen said the whale had been following the group for a while before it came up next to the kayaks about 200m offshore about 9.30am.

He said the whale, which had a lot of scarring as well as some fresh wounds, leaned to the side as if to show the rope that was wrapped around one of its flippers.

"It was unreal. It just seemed like it really wanted help because its flipper was caught up," he said.

Mr van Santen made a spontaneous decision to get into the water to try and remove the rope for everyone's safety.

"I decided to go and help it. The main reason was I wanted to get the people a bit further away," he said.

"I gently got off the kayak and pushed the kayak away and looked underwater to see if I could see what was going on," he said.

Video taken by the tour group shows Mr van Santen swimming next to the whale to remove the rope from its flipper while the creature remains almost stationary.

He gently pulled the rope off the whale's flipper only to find that it led into the whale's mouth, where he could do nothing about it.

Mr van Santen felt no fear about swimming so close to the whale.

"I felt really calm about going into the water. The way it was there, it was just sitting there," he said.

He felt like the group was the "last resort" for the whale.

"I'm just happy to be able to do something," he said.

The kayak group paddled to shore immediately after the encounter and reported the distressed whale to National Parks and Wildlife.

Mr van Santen said the backpackers on the tour had been thrilled by and concerned for the whale.

He understood there had been no sighting of the whale today.

He said he hoped it would make it to Hervey Bay where it could be more easily moniroted or examined.

A Department of Environment and Heritage Protection spokeswoman said wildlife officers were working to assist the whale.

"While every possible assistance will be provided to this animal there is no guarantee of a successful outcome," she said.

"The whale was first reported to Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers on Wednesday July 13. Rangers monitored the animal from the beach and alerted the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol.

"The whale is currently moving between Rainbow Beach and Double Island Point.

"This is a timely reminder to fishers and other marine users to be mindful of how they store and dispose of gear because of the impact it can have on whales and other wildlife.

"EHP also strongly advises members of the public not to directly intervene when they come across marine animals in distress because of the very real risk of zoonotic diseases as well as the possibility of injury.

"Injured or sick marine animals should be reported to the RSPCA on 1300 264 625.

"If people see a marine animal entangled in shark control equipment it is important they report it immediately to the Sharkwatch Hotline on 1800 806 891."


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