Environment

Dirty job: chainsaw teams chop up dead whale

The whale carcass on Newport Beach has now been sawn into sections, and some of the huge chunks of flesh and blubber have already been taken to a landfill rubbish tip at Lucas Heights.

Six two-person teams of chainsaw operators began the grisly job early this morning by decapitating the 30-tonne humpback, which had been dead for days when it washed ashore yesterday.

β€˜β€˜The head section will be buried overnight on a pit here on the beach,’’ said Geoff Ross, the co-ordinator of marine and fauna programs at the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The rest of the sawn-up carcass will be taken by trucks to the landfill site tomorrow.

"About 10 to 7 last night the large seas and strong currents moved the carcass out of the swimming pool down to the middle of the beach ... about 130 metres south of the Life Saving Club," Mr Ross said.

The carcass, about three to four days old, was smelling "pretty awful" last night, Wendy McFarlane of ORRCA (Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia) said.

"It's been another 12 hours and now it is cooking in the sun, so it's only going to get worse over the course of the day ... it's going to be ghastly. It's been lying out in the sun and dead for several days," she said.

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The beach is expected to remain closed today as the operation is carried out and the carcass parts are moved to a waste management centre. Mr Ross said it was unlikely any sharks attracted by the smell of the degrading carcass would remain close to the shore once all the whale material was removed from the beach.

"The carcass did float out to sea last night and did come back in so there's every possibility that there could be a higher amount of sharks offshore. They smell the degrading material," Mr Ross said.

"That's what sharks do - they work on carcasses like this when they are at sea so there's no surprise that they may be offshore, but again there's no scientific evidence that sharks will hang around offshore because there's a whale well and truly up on the beach."

He said once the carcass was removed, "sharks will lose interest ... pretty quickly".

Ms McFarlane said her colleagues would be taking skin and blood samples from the carcass to look for any toxins that may have accumulated in the blood and blubber.

"Whale blood is quite a lot about what it has been eating in the way of poisons that get washed into the ocean. As this animal is a young adult, it has been at the top of the food chain for quite some time, so if there's anything nasty out there, it would have collected a fair amount of it," she said this morning.

That's what sharks do - they work on carcasses like this when they are at sea so there's no surprise that they may be offshore, but again there's no scientific evidence that sharks will hang around offshore because there's a whale well and truly up on the beach

Earlier in the week, ORRCA rescuer Shona Lorigan spent 12 hours standing guard over a New Zealand fur seal that decided to come ashore in a nearby dog walking park at Rowland Reserve in Bayview.

- with Ben Cubby

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