BCM answers why the whale carcass is not being removed
By Rising Sun Reporter
The Buffalo City Metro’s (BCM) decision to not remove the decomposing whale carcass, claiming it will be a costly expense has left some residents and water sport enthusiasts furious.
For weeks a humpback whale stinks up part of the coastline by Nahoon / Bonza Bay and worse according to fishermen is attracting sharks, with one canoeist already lucky to escape the jaws of possibly a Tiger Shark, which bit his canoe recently.
Members of an activist Facebook page called Save Nahoon voiced their disagreement claiming tourism will be affected which will cost the city more.
On BCMs Facebook page, followers and residents questioned BCMs competence on the matter for having not prioritized this case, which will cause greater danger to the public, let alone hurt the tourism economy as the festive season is approaching.
Warren Bradfield was one to urge BCMM to remove the carcass saying it could take months to fully decompose and during this time more swimmers will be at risk.
The Eastern Cape Rising Sun interviewed BCM Senior Manager and Zoologist Services Mrs Siani Tinley to get clarity on this matter:
Q: The decomposing pieces of the whale are deposited in the beach, meaning that it will go up the coast for miles. This will attract sharks to our coastline and endanger people who are swimming on the beaches. Eastern Beach was full for two consecutive weekends regardless of the warning signs put up on the beach. Is the BCM waiting for a person/people to be attacked by a shark in order to act?
A: The whale carcass is inspected daily and weekly. It washed up already well decomposed and it is now at a state of decomposition that it no longer poses a direct danger to the public or an attraction to sharks and other predators. The seepage now is limited to a very small area and is only that of fatty material that is not attractive to predators. The location of the carcass is nearly 1.5 km from any swimming beach so beachgoers who swim illegally will not be affected by sharks attracted to the carcass. The presence of any sharks at this stage will be due to other natural factors at sea and not this particular stranded carcass.
2. When the BCM says that it will be "costly to remove the carcass", has it considered the fact that this will impact tourism in the BCM? It's the festive season and one of the main attractions is the beaches.
The carcass at present is not going to affect tourism. It is on a remote section of the beach and not directly at any public beach. In addition, the public needs to be really close to the stranding to get affected by the unpleasant smell. This inconvenience does not merit the spending of thousands of rands plus high scale environmental damage at a time such as this for a stranding that will not negate a festive season and the tourism market.
3. Not so long ago the City of Cape Town had a similar incident of a whale carcass washed to shore. It did not take them long to remove it. Did BCM at least try and find out how they did it and consider adopting the same approach? If not, why?
A: We have been in close contact with the environmental department of Cape Town to compare such an incident. They have a number of factors working in their favour which includes a formal road 50m away from their stranding. This stranding is 1.5 km away from any access road.
4. How much will it cost to remove the whale?
A: It would financially cost over R40 000 and environmental damage would be higher and not readily repairable based on the sand dunes and indigenous vegetation that will need to be destroyed by heavy duty plant.
5. Was there an assessment done on the matter? Did BCM officials go out to the sight of the whale carcasses and evaluate the situation?
A: Yes, in conjunction with a number of specialists and done daily and weekly
6. Has the BCM considered outsourcing the cleaning and removal of the whale to a private company or asked for assistance from organizations or institutions like "Save Nahoon" which actively has suggestions?
A: We have considered all options and solutions in conjunction with Natural Scientists, the East London Museum, and various municipalities such as Cape Town. Public suggestions are appreciated but the decisions and practicalities we have made come from 20 years of experience and learning opportunities as each particular stranding have a unique set of factors associated with it.
7. People are out swimming, surfing and fishing regardless of the signs, what is the BCM doing to ensure the safety of its people? In fact, a canoeist was attacked last week by what he claims was either a Tiger Shark or Great White. Is the BCM aware of this incident? What other measures does BCM have in place to ensure the safety of residents and beachgoers? Tourists visiting, might not see your sign on the beach which gets blown away by the strong winds. Have you informed the public through other mediums and which mediums or platforms are these?
A: We informed the public on the day that the carcass stranded via media releases as well as one on one group communications and signage. We are aware of the shark incident with a paddler that was out at sea. For comment on public safety, you would need to contact that department.
8. Do you know how long it will take for the whale to be completely cleaned out if left to decompose and be washed away on its own?
A: The remains of the carcass at present would take another 4 weeks to provide very limited seepage in that area. It is not possible to predict the time for bone and sinew and skin to decomposing but this could take as long as a couple of years based on environmental factors such as sea and weather, but these aspects are not relevant to public safety. The remaining bones make for a unique learning experience and exposure to beachgoers are it is not often marine facilities can display a full whale carcass indoors. Again the remains will not pose a public health and safety issue over the next few years.
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