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Dead Whale Washes Ashore in Point Loma‎

November 23, 2011 1:51 p.m.

The cause of death of a 50 foot fin whale that washed ashore on a Point Loma beach over the weekend is under investigation.

GUEST

Katie Orr, KPBS Metro Reporter

Related Story: Dead Whale Washes Ashore in Point Loma‎

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. The cause of death of a 50-foot fin whale that washed ashore on a Point Loma beach over the weekend is under investigation. And the question of what to do with the carcass of that fin whale is also something that's got local officials scratching their heads. Joining me with an update on the story is KPBS metro reporter, Katie Orr. Hi Katie.

ORR: Hi, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: What can you tell us about this whale that was found in Point Loma?

ORR: Well, today I went out to the Scripps birch aquarium and spoke with the executive director. She was saying that this is a massive animal. It's, like you said, about 50 feet long. It weighs over 50 tons. So it's not something that you just throw a rope around and drag out to sea. She said that this is -- fin whales can normally live to over 100 years. But based on the size of this whale she doesn't think it was full grown at the time of its death

CAVANAUGH: Any idea of how thisap maldied?

ORR: No, they're really still looking into that. She says the scientists may perform some kind of examination on it. But she said whales are just hike people. They get sick. They sometimes die from the illnesses. She has not seen the whale personally. But she said from the pictures she saw, she didn't see anything wrong with the whale. It didn't look like it had been hit by anything. It's possible that, again, it just got an illness and it died. She says it is unusual that it washed up on the beach. Normally, when whales die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean. So it is rare to have one, especially of this size, wash up onto shore

CAVANAUGH: Perhaps this one was sick and beached itself and died subsequently.

ORR: That could be a possibility. Again, the scientists will have to examine all of that. She did say that the best options in termses of taking care of the carcass is to get it off of the beach because the process of decomposing will take several months, and the smell will just -- unbelievable for the people that have to work there. It washed up near the Point Loma treatment facility. So the smell for people that have to work there would just be unbearable, and the time, again. She said the best option is to probably try and wait for the tide to be a little bit higher so that the water could help float this whale off of the shore

CAVANAUGH: I heard there was a lot of discussion in the news room this morning about the idea of perhaps taking this whale as it floats off into the ocean, towing it to the landfill. Why don't they just tow this carcass out to sea iffed in whales usually sink to the bottom when they die anyway?

ORR: I think the Plaintiff's Exhibit is towing it out far enough so currents don't tow it back to the show. I read another account this morning that said if they did bring it out, the life guards told the Union Tribune, if nidid bring it out to the ocean, they would actually have to destroy the whale to insure it wouldn't wash back up onto sea. And that's just resources that the city doesn't have. Or any of these agencies because there are multiple agencies involved in trying to get in whale off the beach that it's not -- they can't just make sure it sinks. Because it wouldn't. They would have to physically destroy it. And that's really not something that is easy to do. Because again, we are talking about a massive animal. This is one of the biggest whales in the world.

CAVANAUGH: Now, I'm also wondering, too, iffed in one of the reasons of moving this whale from the beach to the landfill is because of the smell, won't it smell in the landfill too?

ORR: Well, presumably, yeah. It's going to smell wherever it ends up. However, at the landfill, they certainly can bury it, I imagine, you should other substances and try and contain that. We're used to dealing with waste issues at this landfill. So the rommistics of getting it to the landfill, you know, I think it will certainly be a very complicated process. It's interesting because getting back to nidella hillbar, she was saying in the first 4 or 5 years, we've been seeing more of these fin whales up and down the coast. And nay follow the food. They're renowned for being able to circle around fish and swim into tight little balls then they just eat them in one little gulp with their mouth and eat krill and shrimp. So we're seeing more of these fin whales up and down the coast. And she says it's sad, obviously, that one has died and washed up because there are less than 100,000 of them in the world. But she says it's also a great opportunity for scientists to study these whales. Because unlike some other whales that we see off our coast, these whales don't typically exhibit a lot. They don't jump out. So it's hard to see their bodies. So this gives scientists the chance to really examine those whales up close, which they don't get a lot of opportunities to do want

CAVANAUGH: Is that what they're doing now?

ORR: Yeah, I would imagine, you know, they have scientists out looking at the whales. I'm sure there are people out there studying it, because this is just an opportunity. She has not been out there to study the whale. But I imagine the people from nola are out there, people from the Marine fisheries department are out there. So you can imagine that some scientists are looking at this and trying to learn all they can while they are still able to before we have to do something about taking care of this whale.

CAVANAUGH: And my last question to you you, Katie, we only have about a minute and a half to go. What are the optimal conditions of getting this whale off the beach and to the landfill?

ORR: Well, from what I read today earlier, they need the high tide because nay need to be able to hopefully, you know, float this whale off of the shore as much as they can because it's just so massive. I would misdemeanor it would be better for them if it were not raining and the seas weren't choppy. So maybe they want to do if before it's supposed to rain again on Thanksgiving. So sometime in the next few days we might see them out there trying to do everything they can to haul this whale off of the beach

CAVANAUGH: And this is KPBS whale reporter, Katie Orr. Thank you, Katie.

ORR: Thank you.