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April 16, 2021

Tweed whale carcass to be exhumed after shark concerns

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Locals at Casuarina beach surround the beached pilot whale. Photo Department of Primary Industries
Locals at Casuarina beach surround the beached pilot whale. Photo supplied

Luis Feliu

The carcass of a sperm whale buried near the dunes of a Tweed Coast beach after it washed up there last week is set to be exhumed and taken to a tip for disposal this week

following a community backlash over fears it would attract sharks to the area.

Authorities have come under fire for such burials in northern NSW, a region critics say is already notorious for shark attacks.

Last week, Echonetdaily reported that the 3.8-metre whale washed up on Casuarina Beach was buried nearby in dunes above the high-tide mark by local and state authorities, causing a stink with locals (see https://www.echo.net.au/2016/01/questions-raised-after-whale-burial-on-tweed-beach/)

The widespread media coverage that followed has forced Tweed Shire Council managers to exhume the carcass and truck it to a local tip, but council staff have been tight-lipped over the exhumation, as they were initially over the burial.

It’s believed council managers upset by the ‘hysterical’ reaction by media, have deemed it ‘prudent’ to wear the extra cost of digging it up and burying it again, and in a bid to avoid future negative publicity, plans to develop a plan on how to deal with any future whale deaths on local beaches.

The burial by council staff had the blessing of the NSW Department of Primary Industries which only a few months ago launched a $16-million five-year shark strategy to counter the spate of attacks in the region last year, including one in which a great white shark killed a Japanese surfer at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina.

A front-page story in a Gold Coast newspaper on Saturday about the Tweed burial said that in February last year, the same month as the fatal Ballina attack, a whale was buried on Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head, and that four other surfers were also attacked within a 25-kilometre radius of the buried whale in February.

But some marine experts dismiss the theory that whales buried on or near beaches attract sharks.

In response to an outcry over the burial of a whale at Sapphire Beach near Coffs Harbour last September, Southern Cross University ecologist Dr Daniel Bucher said there was no direct link with burials and shark attacks.

Dr Bucher told media that it would be difficult for oil from a decomposing whale to make its way back into the water through sand.

But the surfing community throughout Australia disagrees and has concerns over beach burials.

The beachside burial on King Island, Tasmania, some years ago for 118 whale and dolphin carcasses from a stranding came under fire from local surfers there who said was likely to attract sharks and put swimmers and surfers at risk.

And a US surfer magazine says ‘Burying whales close to popular surf spots is the equivalent of placing a 70-foot pepperoni pizza between a Boy Scout troop and a den of hungry grizzly bears’ (surfermag.com, in a 2008 story titled ‘Raising a Stink: Burying Beached Whales Means Shark Attacks’.

In Western Australia, the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) recently removed a dead whale from a popular Smith’s Beach, Yallingup, after surfers objected to its carcass being buried there, concerned it could seep whale oil into the ocean and attract sharks.

The government also cited community concern for removing it to another location away from the beach.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. I like the suggested idea, of towing them back out to sea, to be ‘cleaned up by the Hungry sharks. Let nature deal with it, rather than burying a marine creature on land.

  2. What next, banning all fishing on local beaches because it attracts sharks. And while you’re at it don’t forget to bury the so called Gold Coast newspaper, deep, we know the propensity for Gold Coast real estate advertisements to attract sharks.

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