Two NSW fishermen are in hospital – one fighting for his life – after an “incredibly rare” incident where a whale breached onto the bow of their small boat on the NSW south coast.
Police and emergency services were alerted to the accident about 9am on Sunday in waters off Narooma after the skipper, 39, issued a mayday call to NSW Marine Rescue.
A young man, 18, suffered life-threatening injuries as the whale crashed over the boat, and was rushed to hospital in Canberra with a broken neck and was placed into a coma.
Former Montague Island charter operator John Moore told the ABC the accident was very unusual.
“I’m extremely surprised – situations like this are very, very rare,’ he said.
“Whales are incredibly intelligent, and very aware of the areas that’s around them.
“From my experience, it’s been a case of larger boats hitting whales and not large whales hitting small boats.
“It’s incredibly rare for a whale to breach and land on top of a boat.
“In my 40-odd years at sea, I’ve only ever heard of it once before.”
Superintendent Joe McNulty told the ABC Maritime NSW had launched an investigation into the incident.
“While inquiries are in their infancy, the incident demonstrates the dangers these mammals can pose to those on the water,” the Marine Area Commander said.
“We encourage anyone hoping to get a closer look to maintain a safe distance.
“You must not approach a whale any closer than 100 metres on a vessel, including boats, surf skis and kayaks.”
Family friend Carmen Bartley said the pair had no warning and no idea the whale was nearby.
“At this stage, we don’t know when he will wake up, or how this has affected his brain,” Ms Bartley said in an GoFundMe appeal for donations to help cover Nick’s medical expenses.
Most whales heading north at this time of year are humpback whales.
Anyone who sees a stranded, entangled or distressed whale is urged to contact NPWS on 1300 072 757.
The Australian vice-president of the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans (ORRCA), Jools Farrell said whales were very unpredictable and are growing in numbers.
“There’s a lot more whales out there every year,” Ms Farrell said.
“The population is increasing by 10 to 11 per cent.”