Dead whale washed up on beach
A YOUNG humpback whale has been washed up dead just north of South Golden Beach at New Brighton.
The whale was first spotted just off the coast last week in evident distress, covered in sea lice and with other skin problems.
It was being harassed by sharks and its carcass was badly degraded by the time it came ashore, said Damien Hofmayer, Tweed area manager for National Parks.
The whale was a male and almost five metres long.
Its size indicated it was a yearling, said Mick McIntyre, the Sydney-based director of Whales Alive, who was in the area to count whales as they migrate north.
A cause of death was unknown, but Mr McIntyre hopes that National Parks or Marine Parks will conduct an autopsy to find out.
“It would be of interest to figure out why the young whale died,” he said. Some natural mortality would always occur, but it was important to see if something else was affecting the species, he said.
Mr Hofmayer said Australian Seabird Rescue volunteers from Ballina had collected some skin samples that would be forwarded to Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney for analysis.
“They may be able to determine a cause of death, and perhaps even the identity of the animal,” he said.
Mr Hofmayer said he wished to thank Whales Alive and the Seabird Rescue group, as they had been able to get to the beach at the weekend and inform National Parks about the whale’s condition.
The carcass on the beach was a sad sight, Mr McIntyre said, ‘and a good reminder of the preciousness of these animals’.
“The humpback whale is still a threatened species so it is a timely reminder how we need to do all we can to protect them.
“That includes looking after the coastal habitat they use as their migratory corridor as they migrate from their Antarctic feeding grounds to their northern breeding grounds,” Mr McIntyre said.
Because of the state of the carcass, National Parks personnel, aided by staff from the Byron Shire Council, would bury the whale above the waterline on the beach, which is part of the Billinudgel Nature Reserve, Mr Hofmayer said.