Sharks spur call to tow dead whales out to sea

Warren HatelyBusselton Dunsborough Times
VideoWatch the time-lapse of a dead whale being removed with heavy machinery.

The South West Safe Shark Group says the latest turmoil around whale carcasses near Yallingup requires a change to WA Government policy.

Convenor Keith Halnan says Fisheries officers must start towing intact whale carcasses to deeper waters to avoid contaminating Capes beaches and endangering swimmers and surfers.

Mr Halnan said the upcoming smart drum line trial gave boat-based officers the chance to try the new method, with other technology such as cameras and GPS trackers able to be mounted on the lines.

Dead whales could be towed to deeper water and tracked with GPS.

“Anchor it there and let the sharks at it,” he said.

Sharks were already feeding on whales and attacked other species including dolphins, but letting sharks feed 25km off the coast would also mitigate the whale attractants, he said.

“The actual flotation of the blubber drops and (the carcass will) virtually drop to the bottom,” Mr Halnan said.

Surfers have routinely complained about the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development’s handling of dead whales, with more surfers warning others this month not to ignore warnings around Injidup.

National Surfing Reserves founder Brad Farmer backed the move.

“WA Fisheries are accountable and obliged to tow rotting whale carcasses (if they cannot be buried) out to offshore currents and well away from humans, mostly surfers, to prevent attacks in the surf zone and monitor their float current movements,” he said.

“As long as the State tourism authority in WA presides over a bleeding billion-dollar decline in tourism economic revenue, the coastal State, with its fabulous untapped and unique aquatic offerings, is as unattractive to potential tourists as a shark-bitten whale carcass.”

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said an effective policy was needed.

“This policy doesn’t have to be complicated, just simply utilising our local resources,” she said.

“While the safety of ocean users is critical, the closure of beaches for extended periods is not the answer, given the impact to small business and for tourism.

“I have recently written to the minister asking that he address this as a matter of urgency, JUfollowing a number of calls from ocean users and small businesses who are increasingly concerned with this issue.”

DPIRD operations and compliance executive director Jason Moynihan said carcasses posed a “significant problem” because of complex geographical and weather conditions in the South West.

“When a whale carcass is discovered, Government agencies work together to find the safest and most efficient way of disposing of it,” he said.

“Usually that is by removing it from the beach and disposing of it in landfill. If this option is not available, agencies do consider a range of other options.”

He noted decomposing carcasses, weather and tricky locations limited options.

“Towing a whale that is up to 45 tonnes is a complex task,” Mr Moynihan said.

“Towing can result in the carcass breaking up and multiple pieces washing back to the beach,” he said.

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said public safety was the prime factor.

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