Monday, October 26, 2009

Where Do Dead Whales Go?

GRIM SIGHT: Concerns for the health of Moreton Bay have surfaced with more whale carcasses being dumped and left to rot on Mud Island. Picture courtesy of David Kapernick

Where do you hide a dead whale? If that dead whale is in Australian waters, the state Environment Department tows it to a well-known Moreton Bay island, ties it up securely, and leaves it to rot.

Mud Island has become the secret dumping ground for an increasing number of dead whales. The horrifying discovery has local fishermen and environmentalist wondering if declining water quality may be responsible for killing the whales.

"There are great concerns across the whole eastern seaboard, and water quality in Moreton Bay is undoubtedly going backwards," Wildlife Preservation Society spokesman Simon Baltais said.

Terry Hill, a local crabber, who found a dead whale hidden in the mangroves, recently says he has been crabbing there for decades and has never run across a sight like this before.

"I don't know what's going on but it's certainly a bit suss, especially when we're also seeing big loggerhead turtles dying in the bay," he said.

This is the type of place in the mangrove swamps that the whales are dumped in. Photo courtesy The Australian Marine Conservation Society Inc. Queensland This site also has some material on the loss of the coral reefs surrounding Mud Island and the devasting effects it's having on the ecosystem.

Not surprisingly, a Department of Environment spokesperson says the increase in the number of whales dying in southeast Queensland waters; but, that this was on a par with the increasing “healthy” whale population. Experts say the population is increasing about 10% per year to about 13,000.

My questions are “If you have nothing to hide, why are you towing these whale carcasses to Mud Island and hiding them there? If the population is as healthy as you claim, why not let nature take care of the bodies? She has a very effective system of dealing with death that nourishes other ocean species and does not pollute the coral reefs around this island?”

Three whales that died in southeast Queensland waters in recent months had been towed to Mud Island.

A 14m (16 ft.) dead whale also washed up on Moreton Island earlier this month; but, was too big to move.

"The latest whale intercepted was found floating around the northern tip of Bribie Island about 10 days ago and most likely would have washed up on Kings Beach at Caloundra if it hadn't been intercepted," the department spokesman said.

"Mud Island is an uninhabited mangrove island in the centre of Moreton Bay, not visited by daytrippers or tourists."

The spokesperson went on to say that towing the whales to a place such as Mud Island was in accordance with the wishes of traditional owners. However, I believe that the indigenous owners would be the first people to say that if the environment was being affected negatively by this practice then another route must be taken.

Mr. Baltais, Wildlife Preservation Society, says while he respects the wishes of indigenous owners, dead whales were not good for Moreton Bay.

"They could attract sharks and other scavengers – what does that do for the rest of the wildlife?" he said.

"There has been a significant decline in the health of Moreton Bay with increasing numbers of dead animals, algal blooms and a loss of seagrass. The last thing we should be doing is dropping more dead animals in the Bay."

Not surprisingly to me and many others, the environment department spokesperson rejected concerns about water quality.

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, can be contacted through this webpage site to express your concerns. There is contact info for the Australian Environment Department and the Wildlife Preservation Society on their websites. Let them know what you think.

Via couriermail

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