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Dead Whale Poses Problem In Point Loma

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Aired 11/22/11

San Diego Lifeguards today were determining what to do with a dead 50-foot fin whale that washed up ashore on an isolated Point Loma beach yesterday.

A dead, 50-foot-long fin whale that washed up ashore an isolated Point Loma beach will be hauled away Wednesday morning, according to city officials.

Reporter Katie Orr speaks to Dr. Nigella Hillgarth.

Evening Edition airs weekdays at 5 PM and 6:30 PM on KPBS TV

The whale washed up near the Point Loma Waste Treatment Plant on Gatchell Road sometime before 2 p.m. Saturday, San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Greg Buchanan said. The beached whale had not decomposed, indicating that it had not been dead long.

The whale will first be moved to Fiesta Island where scientists will determine its cause of death. From there, a city crew will haul it to a landfill.

Dr. Nigella Hillgarth is executive director of the Scripps Birch Aquarium. She says removing the whale is the best option.

"It’s going to be a huge job," Hillgarth said. "It’s going to be a great undertaking - but if you leave it on the beach it would take a very, very long time to decompose and the smell would be amazingly awful."

Officials are waiting until Wednesday morning, when high tide will make moving the whale most convenient.

Hillgarth said the length of the whale indicates it wasn’t fully grown. Fin whales can live over 100 years, she said.

She also said more of them have been spotted off San Diego’s coast in the past four years. There are fewer than 100,000 left in the world, putting it on the U.S. Endangered Species List.

Fin whales are referred to as the "greyhound of the sea'' because they can swim up to 23 miles per hour. They are the second-largest species of whale and can grow up to 75 feet and weigh 70 tons, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

City News Service contributed to this story.

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