Nick Carroll On: Sharks Are Back In The News & Where Are The Dead Whales?

10 Sep 2017 30

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Sharks circling whale carcass, Photo by Surfing WA

Sharks circling whale carcass, Photo by Surfing WA

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL FEATURE

WHERE ARE THE DEAD WHALES?

Oh, and what’s your attitude to the question of the great white?

(Please take a minute to answer the quick quiz below)

Something interesting is happening off our coasts. The humpback whale migration phase one has passed, and phase two is underway. If you’re looking, you’ll be able to see the first whales of the return journey blowing off Sydney’s beaches right now.

This has been a record year for the migration, with some observations indicating up to 30,000 animals are involved. But oddly, very few have ended up on the beaches of Australia’s east coast.

It’s thought between one and two percent of the whales die during migration, and in recent years, increasing whale numbers have meant an increasing number of whale cadavers on NSW and Queensland shorelines.

Yet in 2017 so far, just two — one juvenile and a tiny calf — have been recorded as washing up in NSW, and two along the Gold Coast. Two whales also stranded themselves and died on Fraser Island, making a total of six.

What happened to the hundreds of others? What if their absence is a sign that the clean-up brigade’s beginning to match their numbers?

Dead whale is a favourite food source for tiger and great white sharks. One theory for the apparent increase in white numbers off the NSW coast ties their growth in with the whale migration — an ever-growing biomass in coincidental sync with white shark protection over the past 20 years.

SEE ALSO: Zombie Whale Hits Sydney's Shores

Whales have been protected for a lot longer than 20 years — but white sharks breed faster than humpback whales. Could an increase in their numbers, and thus an increase in dead whale interceptions, be connected to fewer humpbacks on beaches?

The CSIRO’s been tasked with assessing white shark numbers off our coasts. Their report will make seriously interesting reading.

Meanwhile, with summer approaching, shark “terror media” can’t be too far off. Yet for now, the phenomenal attack cluster of 2015/16 off the northern NSW coast appears to be over. It’s been almost a year since CW’s Ballina Shark Summit and the subsequent NSW Government action with meshing and increased smart buoy captures and taggings.

We wonder how — or if — your attitudes to the issue have changed in the meantime. Please take a coupla minutes to weigh in on the questions below:

We’ll follow up with some input from all our original Summit participants on how they see the situation today.

*On Sunday 10 September it has been reported that a surfer was attacked by a shark at Iluka on the NSW North Coast, just 90KM south of Ballina. He suffered a laceration to his leg and remains in hospital in a stable condition.

It is alleged that a dead whale washed up in the Angourie area with sharks feeding off it throughout the weekend.

This is the first shark attack in the 2017 season, just three weeks before Surf Life Savers begin their voluntary weekend patrols. 

35 SMART – Shark Management Alert in Real Time – drumlines are currently in use between Evans Head and Lennox Head. Shark nets have been removed for whale migration season and will be placed back in the Northern Rivers beaches in November 2017. For all the latest on the NSW DPI shark mitigation & updates visit their website.


Tags: sharks , survey , whales , environment , community , nick carroll , surfing (create Alert from these tags)

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