Mark McGowan

Mark McGowan

Minister for Education and Training; South West

    Pygmy blue whale to be buried on Rottnest

    20/12/2005 12:00 AM

    The remains of the 20m pygmy blue whale which washed ashore at Strickland Bay will be buried on Rottnest Island to minimise risks to human health, Tourism Minister Mark McGowan announced today.

    Mr McGowan said the massive carcass would be cut up and buried at a high topographic location, well away from ground water supplies and the lake system.

    “A dump truck, excavator, ute and front-end loader will be transported to the island by barge today and work will start at dawn tomorrow,” he said.

    “We anticipate that work will be complete by Christmas.”

    The Minister said the Rottnest Island Authority (RIA) had considered a number of scenarios in disposing of the whale and taken expert advice.

    “With the safety of all visitors especially swimmers, divers and surfers of paramount importance, the RIA has come to the conclusion that the quickest and safest way to dispose of the remains is by burial on the island,” he said.

    “Towing the carcass out to sea was also considered, but there was a high risk of the remains breaking up and dispersing throughout the area - creating a major shark hazard.”

    Mr McGowan said there was a risk that the carcass could explode during the removal process, which would also create the potential for increased shark activity.

    “Contractors will be wearing face masks and protective clothing,” he said.

    “Public access to the area has been closed with signage and on-island fliers letting visitors know that it is in the interests of their own health and safety to keep well away from the area.”

    The Minister said there had been no observed increase in shark activity to date but oil seepage from the carcass in its present location would take about two or three months to disperse.

    “On completion of the task, the RIA will monitor Strickland Bay for a period of time and will reopen it to the public when it is considered safe to do so,” he said.

    “The area is a high energy location - it is a well known surfing spot - and the disposal of whale oil will be faster than was the case with a similar carcass at Cottesloe Beach.”

    Mr McGowan said once the decomposition process was complete, the bones would technically be owned by the WA Museum.

    “The museum has agreed in principle to work through a process with the RIA that will enable the release of the bones to the island,” he said.

    “There is the potential in the future to display the bones on the island as an educational tourist attraction.”

    The Minister said the arrival of the whale on the island was a very significant event for Noongyar people.

    Minister's office: 9222 9111