Buried whale carcass becomes magnet for great white sharks, stirs controversy

A 40-foot humpback whale that rescuers untangled from fishing line ultimately died of exhaustion and washed ashore Monday on Nobbys Beach in Port Macquarie, Australia. What happened next stirred a great deal of controversy.

After deciding it was too big to move, the Port Macquarie Hastings Council had the whale carcass buried on the beach. Now, great white sharks are flocking to the area, drawn by the scent, and some are worried more sharks will continue to come, according to Macquarie Port News and the Australian Associated Press.

Port Macquarie Marine Rescue senior skipper Geoff Shelton told the AAP that a nearby shark detector picked up 21 great white shark movements in the area since the whale was beached.

“I definitely won’t be swimming in the water—absolutely not,” Shelton told AAP.

Rick Anderson from Rick’s Dive School told Macquarie Port News it was “100 percent” the wrong decision, saying a couple hundred barrels of oil and blubber could leach into the ocean.

“All of our swimming beaches from Miners Beach to Town Beach naturally sweep to the north, so anything that is on the beaches or in shore of the river flow is going to keep going around and around for months to years,” he said.

“Big sharks are going to be in Port Macquarie for a while now. I went down in the morning [of Sept. 19] to Shelly Beach and snorkeled, and came face to face with a great white shark.

“If council get down and dig up the bits and pieces that they’ve buried and truck it away, then we have a problem for a few months. If they leave it then we will have a problem for a few years, which is how long it will take for the oils to leach out.”

Wayne Hudson, who has a Bachelor of Environmental Science, agreed, saying it isn’t what he would’ve done.

“I’m also worried about the impacts it could have with sharks coming in.

“I’ve read they are attracted [to dead whales], and others saying they aren’t, but there’s no definitive research from what I’ve seen.

“I would have been cautious and assumed it would leach out and attract sharks. Being a tourist and a busy beach town cutting it up and taking it away would have been the best option.”

However, marine biologist Kristy Kawaguchi told Port Macquarie News that there is no proof that burying a whale will attract more sharks.

In a petition signed by 3,000 people within 24 hours, the locals demanded officials dig up and dispose of the carcass in a landfill, saying, “The buried carcass and seepage of whale oil from a decomposing 20-ton carcass will attract sharks for years and years to come.”

Apparently local officials are listening.

At a council meeting held Wednesday evening, all parties agreed that there should be an immediate resolution to exhume the whale carcass, and the council reached out to the community to help provide solutions toward that end, according to Coastal Watch.

Read about sharks feasting on whale carcasses on GrindTV

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