The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – Environment, Energy and Science undertook this review in response to growing public concern that whale carcasses left or buried on beaches attract sharks.
We consulted with local councils, other NSW government agencies, Aboriginal stakeholders, interstate government agencies, emergency services, rescue organisations, universities and scientific experts.
The review investigated public concerns, explored the science and made recommendations to give the community greater confidence that whale carcasses will be disposed of in a way that balances public safety with an assessment of risks based on best available science and practical approaches.
The review was finalised in September 2019 and we are now implementing the recommendations.
Land managers are responsible for deceased whales
Land managers are responsible for managing deceased whales on the land or water they manage. In New South Wales, local councils, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Crown Lands and the Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) generally manage this land.
The report recommends that National Parks and Wildlife Service will provide a central advisory service as subject matter experts to other land managers when they need to deal with deceased whales on their land. The flowchart and the checklist provides practical guidance to assist land managers, ensuring deceased whales are managed safely and effectively.
No more burying deceased whales in urban or high visitations areas
To address community concerns about sharks a precautionary approach is recommended. Land managers should leave deceased whales in situ to decompose naturally, unless the carcass is in an urban or high visitation area.
In urban and high visitation areas the preferred management option is to remove deceased whales, except where the beach is not accessible by the machinery needed to transport a carcass to landfill, or where carcass removal would pose a high risk to the health and safety of responders.
Environment Protection Authority supporting disposal of deceased whales
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) will assist land managers to dispose of deceased whales by amending legislation to allow for an exemption from the waste levy and ensuring deceased whales are accepted as putrescible waste at waste facilities.
Continue researching if buried whales attract sharks
In late 2016 the NSW Government partnered with Southern Cross University to fund a world-first, 3-year study to establish scientific evidence on whether whale carcasses buried on beaches attract sharks. While preliminary findings have been reported in the media, these are not conclusive. The research is anticipated to be completed in June 2020.