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Humpback carcass found adrift

An 8 m humpback whale carcass, weighing about 10 tons, was found drifting close to Hawston Beach on Sunday 29 July. The crew of a boat on its way to cut kelp for an abalone farm came across the carcass and alerted the NSRI immediately.

Deon Langenhoven, NSRI Hermanus station commander, confirmed that at 11:20 on Sunday the unit launched the sea rescue craft South Star and the craft Jaytee III was towed and launched at Betty’s Bay to assist the Overberg Municipality with the carcass drifting off Betty’s Bay. He said: “We towed the whale carcass to a remote stretch of the coast between Hawston and Kleinmond and released the carcass in shallow surf. Overberg Municipality will monitor the whale carcass which is expected to wash ashore and will arrange for the carcass to be disposed of.

Tarron Dry, Overstrand Manager of Biodiversity Conservation and Environmental Section, reported that the carcass appears to have moved out of the immediate area. “We are relying on sightings from the public,” she said. “As soon as it comes close to land, we’ll monitor it by boat, drone and visual sightings.

“The Overstrand Stranding Network comprises of several organisations. These include Overstrand Municipality, NSRI, Dire Island Conservation Trust, Kim Shark Lady Macclean, BS Divers, DAFF, Cape Nature, Hermanus Animal Hospital and other organizations that can assist, will be involved in monitoring the carcass.”

Dry also said while the whale is still at sea it is DAFF’s responsibility to dispose of the animal, but as soon as it is washed ashore it becomes the responsibility of the municipality.

“However, irrespective of whose responsibility it is, it remains a problem, and our best answer is to find a controlled stranding in an area away from humans where the natural process of decomposition can take place.

“Also, dead whales floating in the water are dangerous for swimmers, for the obvious reason of attracting predators.”

Dry added that the carcass itself is a floating mass that can cause injury or death to a swimmer, especially in surf conditions. “The carcass could literally crush you, or worse, pin you down in the surf and cause you to drown,” she said.

“It is advised that people stay clear of the carcass.

“In many cases, the cause of death may be difficult and almost impossible to determine, while the carcass is still floating, as is the case with this humpback.”

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