Marine Parks Authority officials inspect the dead humpback at Belongil Beach.
Marine Parks Authority officials inspect the dead humpback at Belongil Beach.

Baby whale washes ashore at Byron

By RACHEL AFFLICK

A DEAD humpback whale stopped Byron Bay beachgoers in their tracks yesterday after it washed ashore at Belongil.

The body of the 6.7-metre baby whale had drifted ashore on Sunday evening, watched by Byron Bay residents Sue McCollom and her daughter Ellie, 12.

"At 11am that morning we saw it floating off Main Beach. It was being rolled about in the waves and at first we thought it was alive. Then it became pretty clear it wasn't," Sue said.

Byron Bay lifesavers took their inflatable boat out to the whale where they spotted sharks feeding on the carcass. They closed the beach for two hours to ensure the safety of swimmers.

Sue and Ellie kept an eye on the humpback throughout the day and watched as the body washed ashore at Belongil, near the old whaling station, at 5pm. Sue described the scene as 'pretty sad', and Ellie, who had named the humpback Bea, was visibly upset.

Curious beachgoers yesterday gathered around the humpback carcass, and staff from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service arrived on the scene to identify and remove it.

Christine Fury, a researcher from Southern Cross University's Whale Research Centre, said the whale was probably just a couple of months old and had most likely died of a respiratory disease, or after being separated from its mother. " Newborns can develop respiratory diseases and when animals are left by their mothers it can be hard for them to survive," she said.

"It was attacked by sharks either in its weakened state before it died, or soon afterwards."

By midday Byron Shire Council had brought in an excavator to remove the whale carcass and it was transported to council land where it was buried.



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