Humpback whale found dead on Byron Bay beach
A juvenile humpback whale has been found dead at Tallow Beach, about two kilometres south of Cape Byron.
The body of the 8.8 metre humpback was discovered early this morning. Marine animal rescue group ORRCA was alerted shortly before 8am, and National Parks and police arrived on scene.
National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) ranger Keely Markavino said they were in the process of figuring out the best way to remove the carcass and dispose of it elsewhere.
"The main thing to note is that it won't be disposed of at the beach because that poses its own risk, so it will be disposed of in another safe, designated area," she said.
A juvenile humpback whale has been found dead on a beach in northern NSW.
Ms Markavino said removing the whale was logistically difficult and beachgoers would be excluded from the area during the process. "It is a large animal, it can roll in the surf zones, so we just have to make sure all necessary precautions are taken to be aware of those kinds of risks and mitigate any risks," she said.
"At the moment we haven't seen any shark activity and we aim to remove the carcass as soon as possible."
An aerial drone has been deployed over the area in a bid to shed light on any shark behaviour.
Monitoring shark activity
NPWS wildlife team leader Susan Crocetti said they were working closely with the Department of Primary Industry's shark program. She said vision from the drone could help address concerns fluids leached from whale carcasses attract sharks.
"It just helps us get that body of evidence, that science around shark presence and predator presence," she said. "[Looking at] what's happening in the surf zone gives us clues and information to help us understand this problem."
Ms Crocetti said the information could help stakeholders who are in the process of forming policy around how best to manage dead whales.
"In this particular instance, we've decided to take it down and off the beach but as that review is finalised and we come to some agreement about those recommendations, we'll then consider what our options are," she said.
Too early to know cause of death
Dr Elizabeth Hawkins from Dolphin Research Australia said it was too early to say how the juvenile mammal had died.
"All we can tell at the moment is that it's a juvenile humpback whale," she said. "It looks a little emaciated and its skin condition doesn't look very good either.
"We're going to take some samples and see if we can at least find out a little bit more about why it may have passed away."
A marine mammal researcher says there are no obvious causes of death from an external examination.
Dr Hawkins said there were no obvious causes of death visible from an external observation, however samples would be taken to test for viruses, excessive contaminants or anything which may have compromised the animal's immune system.
"I can see there are a couple of old shark bites on it, so perhaps it's had a little bit of an adventure in its short life already but beyond, that we can't really tell," she said.
Dr Hawkins said the whale was likely to be less than two years old and on its first or second migration. "It's always sad to see these animals, as magnificent as they are, passed away on the beach, but mostly it is nature," she said.
Experts say the dead juvenile whale was likely on its first or second migration north.
In October last year, a dead baby whale washed up on South Ballina beach and was buried by National Parks and Wildlife Services about 150 metres inland, sparking concerns about bodily fluids leaching into the ocean and attacking sharks
The site was about two kilometres south of Ballina's Lighthouse and Shelly beaches, where three major shark attacks occurred in 2015.
The Office of Environment and Heritage used an excavator to exhume the whale's body the following day, and it was taken to the municipal tip.
// Leah White, Bruce MacKenzie and Gemma Sapwell
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