Oceanographer Brett Vercoe captured the shark feeding frenzy.
Oceanographer Brett Vercoe captured the shark feeding frenzy. Brett Vercoe

Buried whale may put surfers at risk

A MID-North Coast man has expressed concern for beachgoers on the Coffs Coast and believes a shark attack in the region may be inevitable.

Great white and tiger sharks were seen feeding on a 20 tonne whale carcass back in July before it washed ashore and was buried on Sapphire Beach.

Lifelong surfer Dr Jeremy Rourke has been conducting his own research into shark attacks and believes oil seeping out of the decomposing whale will attract sharks to the area for years to come.

"It's only a hypothesis but there appears to be evidence to indicate that when whales are buried on the beach, oil is released over a long period of time and that increased shark activity does not subside," Dr Rourke said.

"The thought terrifies me that there are going to be little kids playing on the beach while sharks are being attracted in by the oil, which will almost certainly find its way into the water sooner or later."

Dr Rourke cited a number of cases where buried whales had correlated with increased shark attacks, including at Cottesloe Beach in Western Australia and here on the east coast.

"The fact that you have a whale buried on Seven Mile Beach between Byron Bay and Ballina, it's almost like x marks the spot," he said.

"It's right where we've seen a spate of shark attacks.

"That many shark attacks along a short distance of the coast is more than coincidence."

He believes alternatives for disposing of whale carcasses should be considered before they are buried on the beach.

"If a mine washes up on a beach they can drag it out to sea and explode it there.

"I'm sure there are ways they could get a tug to pull a whale carcass out to sea, blow it up, and sharks can feed on it away from shore."

Dr Rourke also suggested carcasses could be cut into smaller pieces and transferred inland for burial.

He said he didn't want to scare people with his claims but thought beachgoers should be alerted to the possibility of an attack.

"I'm not saying that I'm an expert and I'm not saying there's going to be a shark attack on Sapphire Beach in the next few months.

"But if there is an attack on Sapphire Beach the smoking gun will be that carcass."

NSW SHARK ATTACKS

So far in 2015
Unprovoked cases reported - 12
Fatal - 1
Injured - 6
Uninjured - 5

2014
Unprovoked cases reported - 3
Fatal - 2
Injured - 1
Uninjured - 0

Past 100 years
Unprovoked cases reported - 211
Fatal - 49
Injured - 110
Uninjured - 52



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