Blue Dolphin owner Peter Lynch thinks more could have been done to save the whales that were stranded off Fraser Island.
Blue Dolphin owner Peter Lynch thinks more could have been done to save the whales that were stranded off Fraser Island. Blue Dolphin

We need a new whale rescue plan as population grows

HERVEY Bay whale operators hold concerns not enough is being done by the state government to protect our growing population of humpbacks.

Earlier this week, two humpbacks were found stranded off Sheridan Flats near Fraser Island and later died.

While a few rangers stayed with the mammals all day, keeping them wet with buckets, they left at dark and the whales died overnight.

Blue Dolphin owner Peter Lynch said the government needs to be better prepared and have the appropriate equipment available for any future incidents.

"No one knew about these whales soon enough," Mr Lynch said.

"As the whale population grows, more needs to be done by the department, they need to be prepared to work with trained volunteers in our region.

"We may not have been able to save those whales but we should have been able to assist and give humane care and comfort to those animals."

Mr Lynch would like a stranding network in the region.

"It's a call centre to see who is available to help in situations like this," he said.

"We all want the same goal, lets get a better working team and communication."

First responders on the scene commencing bucketing and setting up pumps to keep the whales cool and wet
First responders on the scene commencing bucketing and setting up pumps to keep the whales cool and wet NPSR

University of Queensland associate professor Mike Noad said about a third of the humpback whale population, which is about 30,000 this year, visits the Bay during the annual eastern whale migration.

Professor Noad said when whale watching started in 1987 there would have been about 1000 in the Eastern Australian population which he said doubles every seven years or so.

The former owner of Hervey Bay's first whale watching business, Jill Perry, said while the stranding of the two whales took place in a difficult spot to access, more could have been done.

"There is not enough communication, if operators are trained and willing to help, they should have the opportunity because they're out there dealing with them every day and know more about whales than anybody," Ms Perry said.

Whalesong owner Virginia Brigden believes there may have been a better outcome for these whales if there was more local support available.  

"There are a number of people who have been trained and may have been able to help in keeping the whales wet overnight," Ms Brigden said.

"I can understand the safety of people in the dark, but we want better communication," she said.

Queensland operates under the National Guidance on Management of Whale and Dolphin Incidents in Australian Waters (2013) in responding to whale stranding incidents.

The document outlines, "Human safety is the highest priority and is not compromised in order to respond to whales and dolphins in distress".

"Only experienced, authorised and appropriately trained personnel should engage in/manage whale and dolphin incident responses," the management document continues.

A QPWS spokesperson said depending on the location and circumstances of a whale incident, one or more organisations may be called upon to respond, including the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, wildlife officers from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, SeaWorld or the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Marine Animal Response Team.

In some circumstances, EHP and QPWS welcome the assistance of trained volunteers to care for the welfare of stranded marine wildlife, including whales.

Any volunteer or member of the public who does assist is required to work under the direction of the appropriately qualified incident controller.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has developed standard operating procedures based on these national guidelines.

These were last reviewed in 2016 and apply to all Queensland marine parks, including Great Sandy Marine Park. 

All marine mammal incidents should be immediately reported to the RSPCA on 1300 264 625



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