Whale carcass floating off Fingal Beach towed onshore and taken to landfill

The carcass of an unidentified species of whale that is believed to have been floating in the waters around Nelson Bay for at least a week has been disposed of.

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), with help from NSW water police, successfully removed the carcass from the water off Fingal Beach on Saturday.

"The carcass was in an advanced stage of decomposition and NPWS was unable to identify the species or age of the deceased whale," a NPWS spokesperson said.

"Given the prevailing weather and sea conditions, it is likely that it was the same carcass that was observed inside Port Stephens on Friday, September 11."

Port Stephens Council had closed the popular Fingal Beach to water users on Thursday, September 17 after the carcass was sighted floating in the water on the southern end of the bay about 200m offshore that morning.

While NPWS was not able to confirm the species of the whale, a number of people who had sighted the carcass throughout the week it was in the water told the Examiner they believed it had been a humpback.

A whale carcass removed from Fingal Bay's waters on Saturday is believed to be the same one sighted inside Nelson Bay the previous week. Picture: Lisa Skelton

A whale carcass removed from Fingal Bay's waters on Saturday is believed to be the same one sighted inside Nelson Bay the previous week. Picture: Lisa Skelton

The heavily decomposed carcass was the same one sighted between the heads on September 11 and off Fly Point on September 12.

NPWS, the authority in charge of disposing of the carcass, worked with water police and NSW Department of Primary Industries to monitor the carcass as it floating inside Fingal Bay and "options for management of the carcass".

On Saturday, the whale carcass was towed towards the shore and buried.

"Towing a carcass out to sea is a difficult operation that can create safety risks for responders and result in a navigational hazard for ships and other boat users," the NPWS spokesperson said.

"Historically, ocean currents and changing weather patterns have resulted in towed carcasses washing ashore again in different locations, creating a new set of risks and logistical challenges.

"Based on advice from scientists and marine mammal experts, the preferred management option for land managers is to transport carcasses to landfill."

Fingal Bay Beach was closed on September 17 due to a whale carcass floating in the water inside the Bay. Picture: Maree Dowle

Fingal Bay Beach was closed on September 17 due to a whale carcass floating in the water inside the Bay. Picture: Maree Dowle

It is not uncommon for whale carcasses to wash up on beaches in Port Stephens.

The rotting carcass of an 11-metre long juvenile male humpback whale washed ashore near Rocky Point - between Samurai and Fingal beaches - in July 2016.

In October 2018 the carcass of a 10-metre semi-mature sperm whale, which weighed more than three tonnes, washed up onto the northern end of One Mile Beach near rocks.

This time last year, in September 2019, the body of a 9.7-metre juvenile humpback whale washed up on One Mile Beach.