Posted by: The ocean update | October 20, 2015

Dead whale washed onto South West beach attracts crowd for closer look (Australia)

The beach at Moses Rock remains closed as a juvenile humpback whale decomposes. (ABC News : Anthony Pancia)

The beach at Moses Rock remains closed as a juvenile humpback whale decomposes. (ABC News : Anthony Pancia)

October 20th, 2015 (Anthony Pancia). It may have only lived a short life, but a juvenile humpback whale is continuing to pique the interest of onlookers after it washed up on Moses Rock beach last weekend.

The whale was spotted by a fisherman who alerted authorities to its presence on Saturday.

Word quickly spread via social media and it was also posted on the West Australian Government’s Shark Smart website, attracting crowds keen to get an up-close look.

Large waves were believed to have washed it to its resting place, about 20 metres from the ocean, but large bite wounds gave a better indication as to how it may have been killed.

“The state of decomposition makes it a little hard to determine exactly how it died, but there is evidence of predatory attack,” said Parks and Visitors Service coordinator for Blackwood, Ben Tannock.

“There’s a possibility there may have been orcas attacking it, or any other species of shark that are in the area.”

Though an exact age of the calf was hard to gauge, it was believed to have been born during the current migratory period.

It was believed the calf was heading south with around 30,000 other humpbacks to feeding grounds in Antartica.

“It weighs about three to four tonnes and is about four to five metres long,” Mr Tannock said.

“Again, it’s not unusual for smaller whales to be picked off as they make their way up and down the coast.”

Access makes removal difficult

As word spread, more and more onlookers continued to make the trip to Moses Rock beach to see the dead whale.

Signs were quickly installed alerting beachgoers to its presence, but the fate of the juvenile whale’s carcass was yet to be determined.

“We are considering different options at the moment,” Mr Tannock said.

“To put a machine on that particular beach opens up the possibility of damaging the fragile dune system and there is considerable expense involved in breaking it up and removing it by helicopter.

“We do also need to consider [letting] nature take its course and letting it decompose over the next couple of weeks.”

Either way, Mr Tannock urged onlookers to maintain a “reasonable distance” as decomposition continued.

“It will start to get on the nose a little bit over the next couple of days,” he said.

“We are maintaining a daily patrol of it to educate the public of the dangers of getting in too close as that process continues.”

Sharks may be attracted

The beach remained closed due to fears the carcasss may attract sharks.

Though the whale lies out of reach for passing sharks, its bodily fluids would leach into the water over the passing days.

However, its small size would limit how much was emitted.

“We do get regular shark sightings up and down the coast and certainly where the whale was found is no different,” Mr Tannock said.

“But at the moment, there is no slick being omitted as its only recently deceased.

We are hoping the size of that slick will not be too extensive.”

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