Ordinary Australians are showing the proverbial middle finger to authorities who say they will fine the so-called ‘hero in a tinny’ for his dramatic rescue of a baby whale trapped in shark nets off Burleigh Headland on the Gold Coast on Tuesday, 19 May.
A crowdfunding initiative on gofundme.com to help the man known only as Django pay his fine had already brought in almost $14 000 at the time of writing. The target is $15 000.
More than 500 people have made donations so far, and the organisers say that any money left over after paying Django’s fine will be donated to a charity that specialises in whale research and education.
You can view the running total on the Go Fund Me page here.
A legend in the eyes of the local community
Alison Harris, one of the organisers of the fundraiser, said Django is now a legend in the eyes of the local community.
“We want to say a massive thank you to all of you who have, and are considering, donating to this cause. It is wonderful to see so many of us who are passionate about keeping our marine life safe,” she said.
Harris added: “Hopefully the public outrage will limit the fine amount or maybe even cancel the initial fine.”
Watch Today show interview & rescue footage:
Distressed whale originally spotted by drone operator
The drama unfolded on Tuesday morning when a drone operator spotted a baby whale caught in the shark nets and alerted authorities.
But a while later no official help had arrived. So Django, a local diver, took his small tinny up to the distressed mammal, jumped into the water and cut it free with a knife.
Onlookers who had gathered on the shore to watch the drama cheered and he has subsequently become known as the ‘hero in a tinny’.
However, the authorities have been less impressed and pointed out that it is an offence to approach a whale in the wild and to be too close to shark nets. They also said such a rescue attempt is dangerous as people often get caught up in the nets and can drown.
Hero says it turned out to be an expensive day
Django has now become something of a celebrity and been interviewed on the likes of the Today TV show on the Nine Network.
“I’m in trouble,” he told Seven News. “It was an expensive day; but whatever. There are laws. They (fisheries officials) do a good job. It is what it is. I thought most people would have done it. You’ve just got to pay the price sometimes.“