Whale carcass removed from Ballina beach, taken to tip

Update, 4pm: THE carcass of a juvenile humpback whale was removed from South Ballina beach today and transported to a municipal tip.

The Office of Environment and Heritage says National Parks and Wildlife Service is continuing to liaise with Ballina Shire Council staff.

The carcass of a juvenile humpback whale was removed from South Ballina beach and transported to a municipal tip.
The carcass of a juvenile humpback whale was removed from South Ballina beach and transported to a municipal tip.

Update, noon: A SHARK expert says there is currently no evidence to prove buried whale carcasses attract sharks, despite community concern.

Southern Cross University marine biologist, Dr Danny Bucher, said the question can't be answered.

"The concern that's largely come from the public is that if you bury a whale where it's likely to come in contact with groundwater, that the seepage of that groundwater will eventually find its way out to sea and attract sharks," he said.

He said there was research in its very early stages looking into whether that really was a possibility.

The three-year PhD study is part of the State Government's $16 million shark management strategy.

Dr Olaf Meymecke, a marine biologist with the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management on the Gold Coast, told ABC's HACK in September he thought whales buried on beaches would attract sharks.

"He said there was no doubt that sharks fed on floating dead whales, and sharks were capable of detecting buried carcasses," ABC wrote.

"The olfactory system of sharks is highly developed so would be capable of detecting the remains of the whale. It's never blood that attracts sharks it's the fat and oil," Dr Olaf Meymecke told ABC.

Dr Bucher said the research would look into whether there is difference in the groundwater where whales are buried versus ordinary groundwater seepage.

"Keeping in mind that sand filters in pools are very good at removing a lot of the fats and oils that our bodies put out, would that be effective enough to clean the ground water as it moves through and would there be anything left for the sharks to sense by the time it actually got in to the ocean," Dr Bucher said.

"That's along the line the research is taking - looking at the groundwater, where it's discharging into the ocean - and can you detect the groundwater in the first place."


Update, 11am: AUTHORITIES have defended a decision to bury a 5.2m baby humpback whale on a Ballina beach, saying the "location is remote" and that the carcass would be removed as soon as possible.

The dead whale washed up on South Ballina Beach on Sunday, and was buried by the National Parks and Wildlife Service on Monday.

A spokeswoman from the Office of Environment and Heritage said the whale was a juvenile, most likely born this year.

"The location is remote, over 2km from the nearest swimming beach," she said.

"Access is difficult, being restricted by tidal influence.

"Due to the potential for the carcass to refloat and washup further along the beach, the carcass was removed from the beach and temporarily buried under a unused track around 150 metres behind the dune system.

"NPWS plans to move the carcass and take it to municipal tip once tides are favourable and machinery are available to remove the animal."


Update, Wednesday 7.30am: NEWS that a baby humpback whale has been buried at South Ballina this week has caused some concern in the community that more sharks will be attracted to nearby waters.

On Facebook, some people said that burying the dead whale in the sand wasn't an issue unless the sharks could walk on the beach.

But others, more seriously, said the scent of the whale corpse could linger for a long time, attracting all sorts of animals.

Allan Drury wrote: "Well the scent of a corpse will attract animals that scavenge for food. If beach worms turn up in tidal zone then the scent is getting into the sea, then other animals can detect the animals scent and home in on it. We ignore or are ignorant of nature at our own peril."

Scott Jenkins said he wasn't worried, but "ideally it would be pulled out to sea. Let the sharks and eco system have it out there".

Nadine Wyrsch wrote: "Yes it totally happens. There was one decaying on a beach in Byron and the sharks were rampant until it was moved and even after they still stayed due to residue in sand."

Liam Annesley said: "If anything drag it out to sea and let nature take its course."

Allan John: "You would have to have rocks in your head to bury it ... tow it out to sea."

Neil Butler: "Wow, what a spectacularly dangerous thing to do."

But others said the dead whale wouldn't cause problems.

Ryan Hilliard wrote: "It's been tested and it (increase in shark activity) has got nothing to do with that. Anyone who knows a bit about shark movements and currents/tides knows why they are attracted to our area, but really it's their domain anyway so they have every right."

Jeff Parry said: "Nope, worms and crabs will finish it off in no time."


Original story: A DEAD whale which was found on the beach at South Ballina on Sunday has been buried.

A spokeswoman from National Parks and Wildlife confirmed the 5.2m baby humpback whale had been buried on Monday.

It is not known at this stage why the decision was made to bury the whale instead of removing it from the beach.

It comes less than a month after Port Macquarie-Hastings Council was forced to dig up a whale which had been buried on Nobbys Beach.

Locals had raised concerns that the carcass would attract sharks.

Council spokesman Matt Rogers told the ABC: "There's no admission mistakes have been made, the council simply responded to a perception in the community and that's what we're dealing with.

"It's not going to be a pleasant job."

The ABC reported that 3000 people signed a petition calling for the whale to be dug up and removed.

A detector off Lighthouse Beach, near Nobbys Beach, had identified 12 white pointers in just five days.