A PHOTO of a young man recklessly standing on top of a dead whale is shining a negative spotlight on Warrnambool.
The photograph posted on Facebook on Wednesday, has drawn outrage from across the state and attracted national media attention. It was removed from the owner’s page early yesterday morning.
The Standard has also been told a video was posted on the social media site earlier this week which showed people touching the whale’s genitals. It has also since been removed.
Fines of up to $32,000 and prison sentences can be imposed if people are found guilty of approaching, tampering with or removing any part of the carcass.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has warned people to keep outside the 300-metre exclusion zone.
Melbourne radio station 3AW picked up the story yesterday morning, with announcer Neil Mitchell saying “people feel very emotional about whales”.
Senior biodiversity officer Mandy Watson said most metropolitan media inquiries were about the public’s misbehaviour toward the dead creature.
“The photos getting a lot of attention are being followed up by wildlife officers,” Ms Watson said.
“It’s highly illegal to interfere with a whale carcass. As it decomposes it’s full of bacteria and potential pathogens that are harmful to humans. It’s actually moving in the water and people could be crushed if it shifts with a large wave — it weighs 40 tonnes.
“We don’t mind people going down to have a look but keep your distance and be respectful.”
A caller to 3AW “Peter” said he had been to the site earlier this week and suggested it should be towed back out to sea.
“Kids have been jumping up and down on it since Monday and it absolutely stinks,” he said.
The Standard’s webpage and Facebook site were inundated with comments yesterday.