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Whale removal and DELWP Advice

Recently DELWP contacted us to help disseminate information regarding the whale washed up at Collendina beach and the decision making process, please peruse for your information….

 Decision Making:

• The Department of Environment, Land, Water and

Planning (DELWP) will exhume and remove a humpback

whale carcass that washed ashore on the 15 November

2018 and was subsequently buried at Collendina beach on

the 16th November 2018, 2 kilometres east of the Ocean

Grove boat ramp.

• Community concerns around the impacts the buried

carcass could have on public safety have come to the

forefront and overshadowing the immediacy to minimise

the health and safety risk potential to the public in the first

instance with the burial of the whale carcass. Over the

past week Authorities have assessed options for the

removal of the carcass.

Relocation Operations:

• The Department of Environment, Land, Water and

Planning (DELWP) will now exhume and relocate the

whale carcass to a landfill site located at the Drysdale Tip.

• It is expected that the operation will be conducted

Thursday 29th November, depending on weather


• The safety of the public, staff and contractors is

paramount during the removal the carcass.

• The decision to remove the whale has been taken in

response to community concerns that the buried carcass

could attract sharks to the area.

• An Incident Management team has been deployed to

safely remove and dispose of the remains.

• Safety for our staff and members of the public is the

number one priority when conducting operations of this


• The operation is complex and will require appropriate

weather conditions for the removal to be conducted safely.

• DELWP has consulted with partner agencies including

Barwon Coast Committee, the City of Greater Geelong

and the Ocean Grove and Surf Life Saving Clubs whilst

planning the operation, which is expected to take place

this week.

• Weather conditions and tidal movements will dictate when

and how the work will be undertaken to remove the whale.

• A large amount of space is required to manoeuvre

machinery across the beach.

• The community should be aware that removal of the

carcass could take a significant amount of time to

complete and will have an impact on beach access due to

the complexities involved.

• The operation may also result in amenity impacts,

particularly odours from the carcass.

• A staging area will be set up at the top of the Ocean Grove

boat ramp so that the remains of the carcass can be safely

transferred to sealed waste containers. DELWP will

provide a further update for the community when the

operation begins.

Questions and Answers:

When did the whale die?

• It is not known when the whale died, however, the

condition of the carcass suggests the whale had

been dead for several weeks.

When was it reported to DEWLP?

• The morning of Thursday 15 November.

What kind of whale is it?

• A juvenile Humpback Whale- weighing

approximately 20 tonns and 11 meters in length.

How did the whale die?

• The whale died at sea of unknown causes. Due to

the advanced state of decomposition of the carcass,

it was impossible to reliably determine a cause of


Why was the whale buried?

• Due to the immediacy to minimise health and safety

risk potentials to the community and because of the

level of decomposition of the whale carcass, burial in

the first instance was chosen as it was not feasible to

remove from the site without a prolonged operation.

As such, burial was assessed as the best and most

effective method to immediately reduce risks to

public safety

Why are you exhuming and removing the carcass?

• DELWP is responding to community concerns about

the impact the buried carcass will have on the area.

• There is a feeling amongst the community that the

carcass may leach into the ocean on attract sharks

to the area.

• Over the past week DELWP and partner agencies

have been assessing options for the safe removal of

the carcass from the burial site.

Why didn’t you remove the carcass in the first


• DELWP Officers responding to the situation on

Thursday the 15th concluded that burial was the best

option given the site constraints and the size of the


• Following concerns raised by the community and

other stakeholders, DELWP will remove the carcass.

D e c e a s e d W h a l e R e l o c a t i o n

O c e a n G r o v e – C o l l e n d i n a B e a c h

28 November 2018

Why do you need an incident management team to

complete this work?

• Apart from the legal requirements regarding incident

management; exhuming the whale carcass will take

considerable incident planning, coordination and

management of people and processes. It will take

time, require specialised resources and equipment,

require the right weather and tidal conditions and will

involve many people, from truck drivers, community

officers, operation staff, authorised wildlife officers,

police to mention just a few. Having a dedicated

team in place will enable the success of the required

work directly or in support of the exhumation of the

whale carcass.

How much will it cost to remove the carcass?

• Approximate cost is between $40,000 and $45,000

for the contractor. (estimation quoted by contractor)

How will the operation impact the beach?

• The operation to exhume and remove the carcass is

complex and will require a large amount of heavy

machinery including 6-wheel drive trucks and


• Due to the large size of the carcass, it will need to be

separated and transported in sections from the burial

site to the Ocean Grove boat ramp.

• A staging area will be set up at the top of the Ocean

grove boat ramp so that the remains of the carcass

can be safely transferred to appropriate road


• The community should be aware that removal of the

carcass could take a significant amount of time to

complete safely, and will have an impact on beach

access, due to the complexities involved.

• The operation may also result in amenity impacts,

particularly odours from the carcass.

Where will the carcass be taken for disposal?

• The carcass will be taken to a secure landfill site at

Drysdale Tip and reburied to reduce health and

animal concerns.

Will the beach be closed?

• No, the beach will remain open, though rolling

exclusion zones will be in place due to the risks to

public safety. Large machinery will need access to

the beach and will be frequently moving across the


What about environmental and cultural heritage

impacts? Have these been considered?

• DELWP has been working with City of Greater

Geelong, Barwon Coast and Traditional owner

groups to ensure that the operation has minimal

impact on the environment and sensitive cultural

heritage sites.

How will you ensure that the entire carcass is


• The contractor and members of DELWP’s operations

team will ensure that the carcass is removed. Any

small residual will be removed along with

contaminated sand.

Why is there a shark warning in place?

• A shark advice warning has been in place since the

carcass was found as sharks are attracted to whale

carcasses and whale flesh that may have come

away due to decomposition taking place in the sea

and on the foreshore.

• The warning has been in place since the burial of the

whale as a precaution only.

How common is it for whales to wash ashore like this?

• This is a common occurrence for whales making

their return migratory journey to Antarctic waters

from warmer waters north of Australia, and we

unfortunately do see them occasionally being

washed ashore along our coastline.

Does burial of the whale increase shark risk?

• Burial of the whale is an environmentally friendly

option that allows the whale to naturally decompose.

There is currently no evidence (scientific or rhetoric)

to suggest that a buried whale carcass will attract


Why couldn’t you just leave the whale on the beach?

• The most environmentally friendly method is to the

leave the whales remains on site and allow them to

break down naturally. However, this was not deemed

an appropriate option due to the high visitation area

over summer and in response to local community

concerns in this particular case given the size of the

whale and the state of decomposition.

Why can’t the whale be taken out to sea?

• Towing the whale out to sea is not an effective

method of carcass disposal due to the risks involved

to staff, and the likelihood that the carcass would

return to land elsewhere.

• Remains cannot be left floating out to sea as they

will become a safety risk for boats.

• Given the state of decomposition of this carcass

there would also be a risk of it breaking up and

dispersing across a wider section of coastline if a tow

was attempted.

Are there warnings in place for boaters/swimmers in

waters near the whale?

• In most situations where there is a whale stranding

on public beaches an advice message is sent to

inform people of the potential health risk and the

likely increase to numbers of sharks in the area. For

this incident a warning has been issued for Ocean

Grove East and is displayed on the Victoria

Emergency App. This Advice message is regularly


For more information on staying safe around sharks: