Big stink over dead whale at Ocean Grove forces exhumation

Cameron Best
Swellnet Dispatch

Following a familiar pattern, officers from a State Government department have exhumed a whale carcass just days after they buried it. The location this time is Ocean Grove, Victoria, but it follows similar events on the Sunshine Coast, Ballina, and Port Macquarie.

It's a whale of a tale that has created quite a stink around Ocean Grove on Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula.

A dead humpback whale that washed up near the popular beach and was then buried in the sand by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has now been exhumed over fears it would attract sharks to the area.

It was a delicate and smelly operation as the whale carcass, buried two metres deep in the sand, was carefully dug up and trucked more than four kilometres down the beach, before being taken to landfill.

Locals feared the humpback whale carcass would attract sharks (Dan Feeney)

A small number of locals watched on, making sure to stand upwind, as the decaying remains were taken off the beach.

Local surfer Paul Robson said it was a good result for surfers and the thousands of tourists who flock to one of the state's most popular beaches.

"It's just a relief it's gone," Mr Robson said.

"I'm thankful for the hard work that's been done to remove the hazard."

The humpback whale carcass had washed ashore in a decomposed state (Ocean Grove Voice)

Petition gathered more than 2,000 signatures

When the partially decomposed carcass first discovered washed up on Collendina Beach two weeks ago, officials were quick to warn people of the risk of increased shark activity, attracted to the area by the smell.

But rather than taking the carcass away, DELWP buried the remains on beach, saying it was the best option to allow the whale to naturally decompose.

It sparked fears by the local community that the oil and smell of the rotting carcass would leach into the water and prove an irresistible attraction for sharks.

A petition had gathered more than 2,000 signatures calling on the department to remove the carcass.

The whiffy whale carcass was dug up and taken to landfill (Cameron Best)

Locals voiced their concerns over what they suggested was a "half-baked attempt" to dispose of the whale, while a national junior surfing event at Ocean Grove was also cancelled because of the shark risk.

Facing public backlash, DELWP officials made the call to dig up the remains and transport it to landfill.

"We've listened to community concerns around the impacts the buried carcass could have on public safety, especially with the busy summer season approaching," DELWP incident controller Barry James said.

© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


MCB's picture
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MCB commented Friday, 30 Nov 2018 at 9:35am

Were DELWP completely oblivious to how bad the idea is to bury the whale on the beach before the beach going community told them? What credentials do you need to get a job there? Excavator and truck license and you're in? Far out man these blokes are losers.

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig commented Friday, 30 Nov 2018 at 6:08pm

Direct quote from DELWP 'spokesman' via local rag Geelong Advertiser: "There is currently no evidence to suggest that a buried whale carcass will attract sharks."
Umm...Okay Mr Spokesman - don the speedos and shower cap and take a short dip directly out from the carcass. While you're at it, smother yourself in fish oil and garnish with a sprig of bull kelp. Dickhead.

behindthepeak's picture
behindthepeak's picture
behindthepeak commented Monday, 3 Dec 2018 at 4:48pm

How about you provide some evidence instead of resorting to an ad hominem argument? And suggesting they gather their own anecdotal evidence... dickhead.

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig commented Tuesday, 4 Dec 2018 at 6:57am

Anecdotal evidence is unscientific and gathered from ...erm...anecdotes, so I'm guessing people generally pick up (gather) anecdotes as they go about their daily duties. So yeah - why not gather their own 'anecdotal evidence'? If they had, then maybe the whale wouldn't have been buried and exhumed soon after. I accept I probably shouldn't be calling people dickheads on public forums. It was a reaction to an article written in the Geelong Advertiser which quoted a 'spokesperson' who appeared to be covering his arse. As for your assessment of me, thank you and I note the irony in your post. IMO the DEWLP made a mistake burying a whale. There is plenty of 'anecdotal' evidence posted right here in Swellnet to support this. I don't intend to go digging around finding it for you. It's there if you look. I'll leave with one last thought. "Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." (This is an anecdotal quote which may or may not have been from Albert Einstein).

lawncigar's picture
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lawncigar commented Friday, 30 Nov 2018 at 5:32pm

the idea of putting it in landfill seems a bit undignified. what about taking it back out to sea - 10ks + ? or more? - and let it service the natural world.

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig commented Friday, 30 Nov 2018 at 6:11pm

Direct quote from DELWP 'spokesman' via local rag Geelong Advertiser: "Towing the whale out to sea is not a safe method of carcass disposal and there is a strong likelihood that the carcass would return to shore elsewhere.".......Dickhead.

icandig's picture
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icandig commented Friday, 30 Nov 2018 at 6:13pm

Online edition of newspaper article from Geelong Advertiser:

mr mick's picture
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mr mick commented Friday, 30 Nov 2018 at 8:36pm

On another angle, who pays for the job to be done twice? ..oh that's right the tax payer, & me!
Getting so sick of these government bureaucratic imbeciles who waste our hard earned on stupid decisions & not doing a job right from the start. Just another example, & then they turn around & say they need to increase taxes!

Mr mick

Lanky Dean's picture
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Lanky Dean commented Saturday, 1 Dec 2018 at 1:23am

Ban whale burial.
Plain and simple.

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Saturday, 1 Dec 2018 at 9:14am

Important to note the differing versions of this story.
2,000 strong petition that I & others here signed up to does not figure in all versions.
Same goes for Council complaints.

DELWP objections seem the only constant avenue that triggered a response.
Victoria Whale Watchers wishing to Fast track removal might wanna note that.

Those of us who thought National Grom Comp held some sway! (A nice thought)

Victorian Fisheries warned Ocean Grove SLSC of Shark Attraction.
The open season Patrol for Dec 2 was promptly & rightly cancelled.
That right there on it's own forces Local authorities to act. Gutsy call by Vic Fishing!

Yes! I agree that PR needs some polish.
The word (Tip) is so last Whale season...
Insert - (Offsite Burial) As do all current East Coast Councils so close to Xmas.

If you think the Battle's over! A change in the wind for Viccos...Sorry to say....

Keep clear of Ram Head...This week all 27 Pilot Whales buried + The Humpback.

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Saturday, 1 Dec 2018 at 9:59am

Correction! re: "Rame Head"- (Unusually the Whales/Humpback were not "buried")
note: Humpback lies further into shorebreak yet Sand Dunes are very close?
All Whales will be left to rot...Natural process of tide removal is heavily relied upon.

{History} 1983 Same location 90 false killer whales beached/died.

[WARNING] issued by Vic Emergency

icandig's picture
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icandig commented Sunday, 2 Dec 2018 at 7:04am

Just backtracked and read the link above. Interesting (not surprising) that Emergency Victoria allow the Victorian Fisheries Authority to post on their site and DELWP or their anonymous spokesman disagree about the likelihood of shark activity. Luckily this place is pretty remote. Not sure if anyone surfs or swims there, but at least it won't affect a seaside town. Imagine if this happened at a popular resort?

hmd's picture
hmd's picture
hmd commented Saturday, 1 Dec 2018 at 1:58pm

I've been involved in several whale carcass disposals in WA and I can tell you right now that they can and do return to shore, often near the place they washed up in the first place. Burial is a good option but is always derailed by a vocal group who don't know the facts. This creates more work and stress for the authorities and takes another big chunk out of their budgets. It's always an emotional issue but there really is no danger in burying the carcass. I have to say...icandig...go and look in the mirror mate.

uncle_leroy's picture
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uncle_leroy commented Saturday, 1 Dec 2018 at 2:11pm

haha, thanks for the laugh HMD. Can you confirm if you work for the Augusta/Margs Shire council with those stated facts?
Whales were back in the day hunted not for their meat but for their blubber = OIL
This 'oil' most definitely leaches out through groundwater movements especially in WA, lots of beaches with backing creek systems, especially between the capes as I'm sure you're aware,

behindthepeak's picture
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behindthepeak commented Monday, 3 Dec 2018 at 4:50pm

Thanks for thinking clearly.

hmd's picture
hmd's picture
hmd commented Saturday, 1 Dec 2018 at 2:45pm

Ha ha, no I don't unky leroy! Don't live round there either. But I do know that it's often community hysteria that gets a platform on many issues regardless of the truth or best options. By the way have you ever seen a whale with cray rope wrapped so tight around its tail that it's cut to the bone and the tail is dead? That'll get ya thinkin! Glad you had a laugh though.

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Saturday, 1 Dec 2018 at 3:46pm

Welcome aboard hmd / re: Buried whale carcass sparks community anger in Victoria
In former story I stated W.A. have best whale carcass removal Guidelines.
I also stated the fact about unweighted Whales returning to near same spot.
So yes! I respect your wisdom and willingness to share.
Swellnet whole would be the better for it.

If worlds best practice is carried out then fine! But why then keep it secret?
There's plenty enough danger! I bet your family as others count down the hours.

No one has ever witnessed a half decent sling to counterweight a whale.
Rare to see a crane or truck big enough to lift a whale whole.
We see tiresome manpower near lose heads & ruined cranes & trucks...
Grave Robbers Slop Skips to Tips & the Whale oozes down creek to same shore.

uncle_leroy is 100% correct about the Whale burial in most active dune location.
Whale oil leeches to interface contaminating both shore & sacred Tea Tree Lakes.
In extreme weather this contamination can back up drains into Town Centres.
Sure in low amounts! Convince your Insurance agent the same! Total right off !

Icandig is the brains behind our outfit & we're thankful for his #1 civic service!
hmd if you got something to say then please say it to all of us.
Frontline info is scarce around here & we kindly welcome & urge you to share more.
Please inform us on what improvements can be made on either side or other!

icandig's picture
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icandig commented Saturday, 1 Dec 2018 at 5:30pm

The mirror just smiled back....and lord what a a handsome beast I am hmd. Burial is a good option for who? It might be the cheapest and easiest, but to say there is no evidence of burial attracting sharks then *ahem*.....bullshit. If the DELWP believe this they would have left it in the sand and not cave to popular opinion. More work, stress for the authorities, chunk out of the budget? I'm sure the Ocean Grove community could give two shits about that when local restaurants close, caravan parks are empty and the local economy takes a dive as the summer hordes migrate to some other coastal haven. Councils (DELWP?) across Australia have been exhuming whale carcasses over recent years... but why? To appease hysterical ignoramus like myself? Are they so malleable that they won't stand by their own principles? Reflect hmd.

SI's picture
SI's picture
SI commented Saturday, 1 Dec 2018 at 9:00pm

Icandig is spot on with the shark risk. Most of us will have seen footage of how many sharks will come in when there is a whale carcass in the water. The leeching is a no brainer. It’s not burried in concrete. It’s buried in sand!! The sharks can smell things miles off. It’s as simple as A, B,C. It’s actually a common sense thing. I can tell you, I would not surf out front of a buried whale carcass, and I regularly surf in sharky places. The thing is, when they get the smell, they are in feeding mode. That changes everything. You often get sharks just passing by, but if they are in hunting mode, you would not want to be in the water- it changes their behaviour and they become more aggressive. Well, that goes for most sharks. There are a couple of species of sharks that work for the Council, and they actually become more passive when a whale beaches or is burried. That’s because, if you bury something in the sand it disappears!! Some people think that if they bury their own heads in the sand that the danger has also disappeared. So, for those sharks that work for the council that would like to swim out front of the buried whales, if they were to see a very aggressive shark bought in by the leeching, I guess burying their heads in the sand would be an option. However, I would still recommend that they choose to swim a LONG way away from the buried whale. I think any person working for the council that makes statements to the public that “there is no evidence” of sharks being attracted to beaches and buried whales through leeching ought to think twice before so advising. Because some child might read that statement and believe it suggests swimming near the buried whale is safe. If such a kid were eaten, then maybe those words about “no evidence” might come back like a great white and bite them on the arse!! Which sounds bad for the council - but what about the person who get’s eaten and their family?? For years and years big tobacco employed “scientists” who talked about there being “no evidence” of smoking causing cancer. How many people really believed that bullshit? This is a case of where the scientist has to disprove sharks are attracted to dead whales through leeching - ie. disprove what is commen sense- we don’t need scientists to tell us things that are common sense. They add nothing and are often used by government departments as a shield for possible legal action. My advise, for what it’s worth (and it usually costs a pretty penny!) would be that any council should think twice before even half suggesting there is no evidence of sharks being attracted to the juices of dead whales,and implicitly that it’s just as safe for kids to surf near buried whales as if the carcass was not there...


velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno commented Sunday, 2 Dec 2018 at 12:17pm

Re: the sharks going into feeding mode, you can see this up close in the ABC Doc 'The Search for the Ocean's Super Predator' - near the start iirc, they have the victim shark on film before she was famously taken off Esperance. She is congregated with others around a beached whale carcass, and an accompanying male shark definitely is in feeding mode - he gets under the boat, flashes mouth in warning, then charges right up from below to ram it, with camera crew on board. It's pretty chilling vision.

hmd's picture
hmd's picture
hmd commented Sunday, 2 Dec 2018 at 9:27am

Hooley dooley I touched a nerve there! So here is my reply, written before I saw the following 2 (rant rant)
Hi TBB, thanks for the welcome and the detailed reply. I usually just read a few comments, but I just signed up this morning after reading this thread. I'll address your comments in point form for clarity. By the way I don't claim to be an expert but I do have some hands on experience with this stuff.
- Think I recall your previous comment about towed whales returning to shore, so thanks for that.
- What secrets? As far as I know there are no secrets here and we should all be willing to share knowledge and ideas. And what are we counting down the hours to?
- Yes it is labour intensive . Dead whales are horrible slippery, slimy, smelly things and it isn't a pleasant job. I'm sure your guys would use the best equipment available to them, mad if they don't. Kinda lost you a bit after that but I get the gist.
- As far as oil leaching into interface, yes I'm sure the situation is different in Vic than WA. But I'm sure that water testing has been done? What are the results there? And backing up drains into town..that's interesting, haven't heard that one before. I'll look into it.
-I thought that if I make a comment here then I am automatically saying it to all of you. I assume you refer to me telling icandig to go look in the mirror! I guess I feel that people with brains don't go calling people dickheads on public forums, especially when they have facts wrong. Makes them look like a bit of a dickhead
Anyhoo, all good fun. The dead whale issue is one that we all wish we didn't have to deal with, as well as the entanglement issue which is much worse but out of the public eye and so doesn't get much attention. personal view is that dead whales should be left where they are to decompose naturally, and if a beach is off limits for a while, then so be it. But people will never allow that so we find ourselves in this situation. Please don't slag off the people trying to clean it up who are generally just good people trying to do good things. It's thankless work but they keep doing it which is a testament to their character.

icandig's picture
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icandig commented Sunday, 2 Dec 2018 at 10:07am

Facts wrong? Towing back out to sea....OK... possibly not the best option. Point conceded. Buried whale attracting sharks?...debatable...but I don't need evidence or research to convince me (or 2000 odd petitioners). Dickhead comments?...."spokesperson" appeared to be covering his arse, so yep....I'll stand by that one (convince me otherwise). IMHO the whale should never have been buried in the dunes so close to a populated beach, so close to summer near a community and businesses who rely on holidaying families for certain parts of the year. Me a dickhead? Yep I'll concede that point too, but the mirror doesn't lie.....I am one handsome rooster.

Feralkook's picture
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Feralkook commented Sunday, 2 Dec 2018 at 11:20am

Recycle the things, flense the carcass to manageable size on wash up so the digger can load the remains into a plastic lined truck. Ship the remains to one of those mobs who make fish based garden fertiliser or pet food factory, they receive the carcass for free and their cut comes from the sales of a new product called "Willie Whale" lawn food or "Willie whale for cats". Cost to community, digger, flenser/s and truck not much more than what is being paid now. No leeching, no land fill and your lawn or pets will look nice whichever way it goes.

uncle_leroy's picture
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uncle_leroy commented Sunday, 2 Dec 2018 at 1:01pm

Charlie Carp look out, Harry Humpback whale juice coming to a store near you

John Eyre's picture
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John Eyre commented Sunday, 2 Dec 2018 at 1:20pm

Leave the whale to decay naturally and stop messing with natures design,...........which of course is perfect........Who cares if a few fish can smell the money and let nature take care of it....

hmd's picture
hmd's picture
hmd commented Sunday, 2 Dec 2018 at 3:03pm

Love it! Good stuff guys! Willie whale lawn food has some merit for sure! Community event bringing everyone together! Could be held up by the protected status of whales though, which I concede is bureaucratic madness for sure.
Hope to meet you guys one day, that would be a laugh. Until then all the best and hopefully no more beached whales this season :-)

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Sunday, 2 Dec 2018 at 4:43pm

Qld Cyclonic Storms surge anywhere from 2 -10 metres of Ocean into the towns.
Common for salted floodwater to rise up Sewerage & ruin Water Supply
A whale in a sand dune would be like a fish fillet in a colander + town in the bathtub.
The whole town would become diseased with mangy whale flesh.
Not just for 4 days but every day onward. Mud army will smell worse than they look.

Our Gold Coast Council closes swimming during Storm Events.
The days after the storms are also closed due to contamination fears.
Natural + Pollution events now cost Tourists & beachgoers over a month each year.

Local Court cases of major estuarine pollution are mounting by the biggest in town.
Yes! Gold Coast also have constant leeching of poisons into WSR.(We apologize!)
A Mangy Whale in sand dunes could compromise Marine Park Seafood/ Eco Tourism.

As Whales crowd closer to our shore we need to act efficiently & humanely.
Burying / Exhuming Whales in the dunes is already closing beaches for no reason.
This buffoonery cancelled biggest events here on this beach.We can't go on this way!

If we adopt Whale Hangi then #1 Gold Coast [BEACH CLOSED] > >(2 months a year)
Soon GC timeshare trolley walls off beach & imposes 1915 timetable,a perfect match!

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig commented Sunday, 2 Dec 2018 at 7:42pm

It's clearly a bigger issue than one dead stinky whale in a small beach community. I believe they did the right thing by removing it and I'm happy it's gone. Potentially a business opportunity for travelling whale butchers (flensers) and a new source of fertiliser? At least I feel like I'm a little closer to understanding it. Thanks for the input. I'm done with this issue - at least until another one washes up.

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Sunday, 2 Dec 2018 at 8:36pm

We salute icandig's civic minded tireless transcribes of otherwise inaccessible news.
We can always dig up icandig after he stews in own his juices...Mana bro!..anytime...

icandig's picture
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icandig commented Monday, 3 Dec 2018 at 6:50am

I thought I was done and then I backtracked to the previous article Swellnet article.

Where I found this post from truebluebasher:

Thanks TB...this is indeed worth a read. There is a better way to deal with beached whales. Over and out.

Kevchecksurf's picture
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Kevchecksurf commented Wednesday, 5 Dec 2018 at 4:02pm

Agree with john Eyre. This whole post seems to be one bloke trolling and 2 guys who get paid to remove whales from beaches.
I can see why it would be unpopular locally but if you're going to live by the beach I feel like you've signed up for the whole bit. If a stinky whale washes up then too bad. If you think there's an increased risk of shark attack, well no one is making you swim. I am just about as educated as everyone else in this discussion but surely whales washing up and decomposing has a beneficial impact on the intertidal zone

icandig's picture
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icandig commented Tuesday, 29 Sep 2020 at 8:29am

Well done to the committed crew who saved 110 long finned pilot whales out of around 300 who beached themselves in Macquarie Harbour in Tas recently. They disposed of the remaining 200 odd carcasses by towing them out to sea. Not offering any opinion here, just passing on the news report.