Fifth deceased whale during annual migration

Issued: 27 Jun 2023

Whale remains creates a life source for many other scavenging animals including sharks.

Whale remains creates a life source for many other scavenging animals including sharks.

The Department of Environment and Science (DES) is reminding people to stay away from stranded or deceased marine animals after drone footage captured about 50 tiger sharks feeding on the remains of a humpback whale off the coast of Hervey Bay.

The frenzy of tiger sharks was captured by marine park rangers on Sunday afternoon as they inspected the carcass in the bay.

Senior Ranger Daniel Clifton said the vision is a reminder for people to keep clear of marine animal remains and shows the important ecological relationship between sharks and whales.

“Where there are dead whales, there are likely sharks nearby and this vision clearly shows why this is the case,” Senior Ranger Clifton said.

“The death of one whale, although sad, creates a life source for many other scavenging animals including fish, sharks and other marine life.

“We’re fortunate here in the Great Sandy Marine Park that we can experience these natural processes first-hand.”

Ranger Clifton said sharks can still be present near whales in shallow waters.

“That is why we ask people to keep their distance from dead whales that wash up near the shore,” he said.

“Marine animals can also carry zoonotic diseases, so you should never touch them.

“The QPWS and local councils have highly trained experts ready to deploy to whale strandings, and it is best to wait for the experts to attend and assist during stranding events.”

The humpback’s remains have been anchored to a secure spot to allow for natural processes to continue. It is the fifth whale to die in Wide Bay waters in the past week.

  • On 16 June, a humpback whale stranded and later died in shallow waters near Susan River.
  • On 20 June, a humpback washed up deceased at Inskip.
  • On 22 June, a Bryde’s whale stranded and later died at Eurong, K’gari.
  • On 24 June, a second Bryde’s whale stranded and later died at Cathederal beach, K’gari.
  • On 25 June, the deceased humpback was reported to DES.

Mr Clifton said as the population of whales migrating up Queensland’s coast continues to grow, so will the number of whales dying of natural causes.

“This an inevitable and natural by-product of this conservation success,” he said.

“When a whale strands, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) works with local councils and Traditional Owners to determine the best method of disposal.

“This includes burial in nearby dunes or being towed and secured in mangroves at certain islands off Queensland’s coast.

“Depending on the location, deceased whales can also be left in-situ, and as part of the natural processes, providing food for birds, crustaceans and other marine and terrestrial animals.”

All sightings of stranded marine life, including whales, should be reported immediately to DES on 1300 130 372 or to the relevant council.