Deeper whale car­cass is­sues sur­face

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

Mar­garet River’s 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 boat­based 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, fol­low­ing a num­ber of calls from ocean users and small busi­nesses who are in­creas­ingly con­cerned with this is­sue,” Ms Met­tam said.

DPIRD op­er­a­tions and com­pli­ance ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Jason Moynihan said car­casses posed a “sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem” be­cause of com­plex geo­graphic 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.”

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

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