Whale rescue hero finally learns fate
THE Gold Coast diver who sparked an official investigation after freeing a humpback whale from shark nets has escaped with a small fine and a stern warning.
Django Hopkins made international headlines on Tuesday when he dived in to the water off Burleigh Heads to free a young whale tangled in shark nets, only to later be caught by workers from the Department of Fisheries.
Despite his heroics, Mr Hopkins was facing fines of almost $30,000 for a number of offences relating to approaching whales and shark nets, but an investigation by the department has cleared the accomplished free diver of any serious breaches.
He was instead given a smaller fine and an official caution.
Multiple fundraising drives set up to support the Currumbin local generated more than $10,000 and it is understood the excess funds will be donated to other charitable causes.
Despite the drawn-out drama, Mr Hopkins said he would do it all again if he had his time over.
While acknowledging that his actions were potentially 'highly dangerous', he said he didn't think twice about saving the whale and was happy with the outcome.
"I didn't want to see $20,000 raised on GoFundMe pages having to pay a big fine, so I'm rapt with that (a smaller fine)," he said.
"I'll talk to a few of the guys about some other worthy causes to do with the ocean and go from there."
In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Fisheries said Mr Hopkins was not being fined over the whale rescue because he had no previous record of infringements with the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol.
"However, he - or others - may not be so lucky should there be a next time," he said.
" To be clear, this incident could have had a tragic outcome. The actions we saw earlier this week were reckless and completely unnecessary.
"The Marine Animal Rescue Team (MART) was just minutes away when this person went into the water.
"He put himself in serious danger, as well as potentially injuring the whale, and creating a situation where MART could have been at significant risk trying to rescue a trapped swimmer next to the thrashing whale."
Originally published as Whale rescue hero finally learns fate