SAN DIEGO - A complex removal operation got underway Thursday to remove a dead whale that has washed ashore twice in San Diego County in the last two weeks.
The 57-foot fin whale that currently sits on a beach at Border Field State Park – about three-quarters of a mile from the U.S.-Mexico border – will be taken to a local landfill.
California State Parks reported that the multi-agency process to remove the carcass will continue into Saturday. Research biologists with the National Marine Fisheries Service started cutting apart the roughly 50-foot carcass around midday Thursday. Some of the flesh will be used for study and the rest will go to a landfill.
According to California State Parks, experts are attempting to move the carcass as quickly as possible because it is near some nesting endangered bird species, including California least terns and Western Snowy Plovers. The fear is that the carcass will attract scavenging wildlife, which will threaten the birds and their chicks and eggs.
Biologists are unsure if they will be able to determine the cause of death because the carcass has decomposed significantly. They will attempt to preserve its bones for research purposes.
How It Got There
On May 19, the dead whale washed up on a rocky shoreline near the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant. Two days later, lifeguards in a motorboat dragged it from the shore, then turned it over to the Fallbrook-based Marine Conservation Science Institute to ensure it did not drift back to shore.
However, MCSI reported that its tow line broke before the whale was far enough out to sea. On May 23, it washed ashore in Border Field State Park.
Disposing of a Dead Whale
Removing dead whales from coastlines isn't an easy task. Methods in the past have included towing a carcass out to sea, burning it, burying it or taking it to a landfill.
In 1970, crews in Oregon tried to blow up a whale but instead created one huge, smelly mess when the whale's flesh went flying everywhere. The incident was labeled by many as a debacle and when author and humorist Dave Barry made fun of the situation it was cemented in Oregon history.
In later years, news footage of the 'exploding whale' would go viral on YouTube and the newsman who was on camera that day, Paul Linnman, would become somewhat of a celebrity over the whole thing. He even wrote a book highlighting that moment in his career.