19 July 2023

Whale carcass sparks multi-agency removal operation as fears another was caught in nearby nets

| Keeli Royle
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lifeguard on jetski moving whale carcass

The carcass of a small whale was spotted off North Wollongong Beach on Tuesday morning. Photos: Illawarra Weather Warnings & Local Media Info.

A deceased baby whale has been towed from North Wollongong Beach as neighbouring crews prepared to release another whale believed to be tangled in nets just kilometres away.

Lifeguards were first alerted to the carcass floating off shore near Flagstaff Point late yesterday morning (18 July) and launched an operation to efficiently remove the remains with the support of local Marine Rescue crews.

Marine Rescue NSW Inspector Stuart Massey said his team worked with Wollongong City Council to transport the carcass.

“The whale carcass was close to rocks and initially secured by a lifeguard on a jet ski,” Inspector Massey said.

READ ALSO Bumper season for beautiful ‘beasts’ heading north to warmer waters

“The deceased humpback was transferred to the Marine Rescue vessel, which completed the tow to the Port Kembla boat ramp.”

“This retrieval was another seamless inter-agency operation,” Inspector Massey added.

Once the carcass was delivered by Marine Rescue crews to shore, it was taken into the care of Wollongong City Council staff.

A Council spokesperson said they were advised the remains would be buried.

Lifeguard on shore looking at whale carcass in water at North Wollongong Beach

The carcass was transported to Port Kembla boat ramp for removal.

They added that extra precautions were been put in place in case the presence of the carcass had attracted more marine wildlife to the area.

“As a whale carcass can result in increased shark activity closer to shore, Wollongong City Council has closed North Wollongong Beach for swimming as a precaution. It is our only patrolled beach open during the winter months,” the spokesperson said. “In addition, we are placing warning signage at neighbouring beaches.”

READ ALSO Five places for Wollongong landlubbers to spot whales this bumper season

Surf Life Saving Illawarra have been told that North Wollongong Beach will remain closed for a minimum of 24 hours and that information would be shared with the community when the Council is ready to reopen the site.

The whale’s cause of death appears to remain unknown, with the National Parks and Wildlife Service unlikely to perform a necropsy and investigate the incident further.

While authorities addressed the carcass, they received reports that another whale had been tangled in nets near Windang. Shellharbour Marine Rescue crews prepared to assist the National Parks and Wildlife Service disentanglement team in releasing it.

Fortunately, the operation was called off as the whale managed to free itself and swim away.

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