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Beached sperm whale at Rockingham Beach ‘most likely’ to be euthanised

Jessica EvensenThe West Australian
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The stranded whale about a 100 meters off the shoreline on Rockingham Beach will most likely be euthanised.
Camera IconThe stranded whale about a 100 meters off the shoreline on Rockingham Beach will most likely be euthanised. Credit: Ross Swanborough/ Ross Swanborough

Authorities have confirmed that a 15m sperm whale that beached on a sandbank 70m off Rockingham Beach will “most likely” be euthanised.

At around 5am this morning, authorities were notified by a member of the public that the whale — which was the same one that came dangerously close to swimmers at Port Beach on Saturday — had become stuck.

Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions Swan Coastal district manager Mark Cugley said the whale’s tail was free, but two-thirds of the mammal’s body was on the sandbank.

Two thirds of its body is stranded on a sandbank.
Camera IconTwo thirds of its body is stranded on a sandbank. Credit: Ross Swanborough/ Ross Swanborough

“It’s not really got that energy that you would expect from a healthy animal, so I’d say it’s resting, and I think at the moment it’s protecting one side of itself from any predators, positioning itself in a way that we might expect in an animal who’s not well and needs to rest,” he said.

“Yesterday, it was swimming in those tight circles, which isn’t normal behaviour, which I guess makes us concerned that not everything is well with the animal.

“At times, it became grounded on shallow sand bars, and it would swim off again, then it would get grounded again, so it’s concerning, and that’s why we need to fully assess its health.

“It’s got a little bit of sunburn, and it’s a little bit sunken and depressed behind its melon (forehead), which isn’t a great sign of body condition.”

Marine mammal experts have gone out on a boat to assess the whale and confirmed it is in a “poor condition”.

“We don’t know (the weight) of this individual, of course, but it has lost body condition,” Mr Cugley said.

beached Sperm whale and the closed beach down at Rockingham Beach.
Camera Iconbeached Sperm whale and the closed beach down at Rockingham Beach. Credit: Jessica Evensen/The West Australian

“Looking at the animal’s condition, it’s not got a lot of strength (and) it’s got a higher respiration rate, which suggests that it’s stressed.”

Mr Cugley said it would be a challenge to decide the best way to euthanise an animal so close to shore but assured the Department would follow the International Whaling Convention.

Authorities will continue to go out on a boat and pour water on the whale to keep it wet and comfortable and stop the sunburn from blistering.

Onlookers have flooded the beach.
Camera IconOnlookers have flooded the beach. Credit: Ross Swanborough/ Ross Swanborough

“We’re trying to minimise any suffering that it’s experiencing, but it may be that the most humane outcome is that we go ahead and euthanise this marine mammal, unfortunately, but that is often what we do for the most humane outcome,” Mr Cugley said.

“But we’ll continue to assess that we’ve only been out on water this morning.

“Today is really going to be about getting a good understanding of this animal’s health and coming up with options to make sure its welfare can be managed.”

Camera IconCredit: Ross Swanborough/ Ross Swanborough, a stranded whale about a 100 meters of the shoreline on Rockingham Beach, in Rockingham, Perth.

Mr Cugley described it as a “multiple-day incident” and said the whale would not be euthanised for a few days.

While sperm whales are found along the south coast of Western Australia, they are typically found further out at sea.

The beach has been closed to swimmers, and a shark warning has been issued, but no sharks have been spotted yet.
Camera IconThe beach has been closed to swimmers, and a shark warning has been issued, but no sharks have been spotted yet. Credit: Jessica Evensen/The West Australian

The beach has been closed to swimmers, and a shark warning has been issued, but no sharks have been spotted yet.

The beach is expected to be closed for several days.

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