Coffin Bay National Park visitors given whale warning

WASHED UP: The adult male sperm whale was initially seen caught on a sand bar 400 metres off shore last month. Photo: Department for Environment and Water
WASHED UP: The adult male sperm whale was initially seen caught on a sand bar 400 metres off shore last month. Photo: Department for Environment and Water

Visitors to Coffin Bay National Park are being urged to stay away from the body of a dead whale which washed up on Seven Mile Beach last month.

A 16-metre-long adult male sperm whale was first seen caught on a sand bar about 400 metres off shore in mid-June before being washed onto the beach a few days later.

National Parks and Wildlife Service SA District Ranger Peter Wilkins said due to the remote location and the size of the whale which is estimated to be about 45 tonnes, there was no feasible way to move the carcass.

He said the only option was to leave the whale to breakdown naturally, which was already underway with blubber, oils and body fluids dispersing along the beach.

"Park visitors should be aware that sand around the whale carcass contains animal fats that are sticky and smelly, and difficult to remove from shoes, clothing and vehicles," he said.

"We advise onlookers to keep a good distance from the carcass to avoid coming into contact with the affected sand and also to reduce possible health risks associated with decomposing animals."

Visitors are also warned the carcass was likely to attract sharks so swimmers and surfers were urged to stay away from the area, and removing items from the national park, including whale body parts, was illegal.

The South Australian Museum has received measurements, photos and the lower jaw of the whale to learn more about the species and possibly determine how the whale died.

The museum's mammal collection manager David Stemmer said signs showed the whale was likely struck by a vessel, which was one of the bigger human impacts on whales on the open ocean.

"Based on blood and visible bruising that we could see from drone footage it looked like it had a fairly significant impact from the side," he said.

Mr Stemmer said sperm whales washing ashore were not uncommon and were most sightings had been around southern Eyre Peninsula and in the south east along the Coorong.

The first whale skeleton prepared by the museum was a 16m male sperm whale that was stranded at Point Bolingbroke, south of Tumby Bay in 1881, and is still on display at the front of the museum.