Home » Crowds flock to beach after whale strands itself again, shark warning issued

Crowds flock to beach after whale strands itself again, shark warning issued

A whale that has stranded itself twice in the past two days south of Perth may need to be euthanised, WA authorities say.

The Rockingham Naval Memorial Park Beach has been closed off to the public as authorities respond to the distressed sperm whale around 50 to 70 metres offshore.

The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) have confirmed it is the same whale which briefly came to shore at Port Beach in Fremantle on Saturday before returning to the sea.

They say the animal, which is more than 15 metres long and weighs more than 30 tonnes, may have been looking for a place to rest.

Dozens of people have flocked to the foreshore to watch the spectacle.

DBCA Swan Coastal District Manager, Mark Cugley, said it may have to be euthanised because it couldn’t get off the sandbar.

“If it is resting, whether it could actually get off the sandbar I’m not sure, but I would suggest over the last two, two-and-a-half days it’s probably been looking for somewhere to come and rest up,” he said.

“That’s what it’s doing on the sandbar behind us at the moment.”

The beach has been closed to swimmers. (
ABC News: Angela Ho
)

A large whale in water near swimmers.

This whale came close to shore at Port Beach on Saturday morning. (Supplied)

Mr Cugley said the whale was struck by a boat yesterday and may in fact have come closer to shore to seek refuge.

DBCA science coordinator Kelly Waples said it was not a good sign that it had come so close to shore.

“They live offshore in deep water and that’s where they forage and spend their time,” Dr Waples said.

A beached whale and a rescue boat

Authorities believe the whale is unwell.(
ABC News: ABC News: Nicolas Perpitch
)

“It’s actually sitting on the on the sand floor.

“They weigh … between 30 and 35 tonnes and you can imagine that all of that body weight is squashing down on its internal organs.

“Normally this is an animal that’s supported fully by the seawater, so that kind of compression is a very bad situation to be in.”

A whale close to shore

The whale is 15m long and weighs more than 30 tonnes.(
ABC News: Angela Ho
)

Dr Waples said she and a team from the Perth Zoo were continuing to monitor its condition.

She has urged people to avoid the area to prevent further distress to the animal.

The department has issued a warning to water users that the whale may attract sharks.

A beached whale being sprayed with water from a boat

Authorities are spraying the whale with water to prevent sunburn.( ABC News: Nicolas Perpitch)

Early on Monday afternoon, authorities began spraying the animal with water using a hose from a boat to minimise its blistering and sunburn.

New shark barrier installed

Meanwhile, a new shark enclosure has been installed in the Swan River at Bicton Baths, following two shark bite incidents in the river over the past three years. 

In January 2021, Cameron Wrathall as on his morning swim from Bicton jetty to Blackwall Reach when he was bitten by a bull shark, causing severe injury and massive bleeding.

A wide shot of the Swan River at Point Walter Reserve.

Cameron Wrathall was bitten at Blackwall Reach, a popular spot among swimmers, paddlers and rock climbers.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

Then in February, 16-year-old Stella Berry died after she was bitten by a bull shark while swimming near the Fremantle Traffic Bridge in North Fremantle.

The new enclosure was attached to the existing jetty at Bicton Baths and will be about 50 metres long and 50 metres wide.

It is expected to be open by the end of the month and, unlike nets, will not trap marine life. 

The state government provided $300,000 to the City of Melville to fund the barrier.

An aerial shot of a segment of river with a red line marked to show the location of a proposed shark barrier.

The locaton of the shark barrier at Bicton Baths. (Supplied)

“For almost a century, the Bicton Baths has been a popular spot for local bathers,” Premier Roger Cook said.

“This new enclosure will see the baths returned to their former glory, while ensuring Western Australian families can confidently enjoy swimming in our beautiful Swan River this summer.”