By Michael Giles
THE announcement on Sunday that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) will leave a 16.6 metre whale, washed up on the beach at Forrest Caves on Phillip Island to decompose where it is has drawn plenty of comment.
Some of it around what the smell might be like when the Victorian school holidays start in three weeks’ time, at Easter.
Others were concerned about sharks and the prospect that beaches between the popular Woolamai surfing hub and Surfies’ Point might be closed at some stage.
Some used knowledge of similar whale incidents causing problems along the NSW coast and in Queensland,
But an equal number argued it was a natural event and nature would deal with the incident in its own way.
DELWP Incident Controller Matt Green has ruled out removing or burying the huge sea creature which authorities say has already started to deteriorate after a series of tidal movements in the past few days.
“We will be leaving the carcass in place after our assessment of a range of options determined removal or burial with machinery would have too significant an impact on environmental and cultural values in the area,” Mr Green said.
“Allowing the carcass to break down naturally is also the simplest and most environmentally friendly method.
“We’d also like to remind people that if they do head to this beach, you need to ensure you stay more than 300 metres away from the whale, and so do your dogs.
“The important Advice message warning beachgoers of the potential for extra sharks in the area will remain in place from Woolamai Beach through to Surf Beach, while we continue to monitor the situation,” he said.
Here’s some of the feedback we received on Facebook:
Pat Hay: We were up at Hervey Bay a few years back and there was a dead whale. The stench was unimaginable. There was whale oil all over the top of the water and sand so was polluting the beach and of course there were sharks hanging around. Foxes, carrion birds, and dogs were also having a go. Lift your game Phillip Island. You are a tourist destination! For everyone’s health and safety that carcass needs to be towed out to sea so the garbage cans of the sea can do their job.
Felicity Mazur responded: It’s not near houses and it’s in its natural habitat. The areas huge. It’ll be OK.
Peter McMillan: When l was up the north coast a whale washed up, the authorities towed it out to sea and down to a remote beach to decompose. The risk posed to surfers would have gone on for months if it was left to break down on the beach. There were huge great whites feeding off it. This would make perfect sense for the people of Phillip Island.
Libby Walters agreed: Way to drive away tourists, this will smell terrible.
Kristy Davidson Sheridan in the same vein: Wow only four weeks away from school holidays, odd decision.
Joanne West: End of the day, decisions are driven by $$$ and Parks don’t have $$$.
Margaret Bowers: I remember when there was a dead whale in the water out at Smiths Beach and the sharks could be seen jumping out of the water to get a bite from the top of it. Amazing memory of nature at its best cleaning up its own rubbish and waste.
Shell Thomas agreed: It’s a natural occurrence. Safer and more environmentally friendly to leave it be. And the sharks, well umm sharks live in the ocean. They can swim wherever they please!
A spokesperson for DELWP said it was inevitable the decomposing carcass would smell but it was simply too big to move, bury or tow away.
“Fisheries will be monitoring for shark activity in the area and we will be updating our warnings as required but so far we don’t expect to have to close any beaches.”