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Thursday 23 March 2017

Health fears over whale-burial plan

Anita Guidera

PLANS by a local council to bury almost three dozen whales on the beach where they died have run into local opposition amid health fears.

The bodies of the 33 deep-water pilot whales were first spotted by a local ferry operator strewn on the beach of the uninhabited Rutland Island off Burtonport on Donegal's north- west coast last Saturday.

Tests by a team of students from the Galway/Mayo Institute of Technology, led by researcher Dr Ian O'Connor, are ongoing to determine how the creatures died.

Yesterday, the council transported specialist digging equipment to Burtonport Harbour to be carried across by ferry to begin the massive burial operation after securing a licence from the Department of Agriculture.

Arranmore Fast Ferry operator, Seamus Boyle, who spotted the dead whales last Saturday, said people had genuine fears. "It won't be a problem now but in a few months time we could be left with the situation that gases are released from these creatures.

"There are holiday homes on this island and the harbour is just across the water. With the right wind, Burtonport Harbour could be badly affected.

"A lot of people feel that the whales should be taken off the island altogether and disposed of out to sea at a safe distance where they would decay naturally or be preyed upon," he said.

But local county councillor David Alcorn confirmed last night that taking them out to sea was not an option.

"I can tell you that taking them back to sea has been ruled out because they could refloat and come ashore again."

Meanwhile, the British Navy has denied any activity in the areas around where the whales had been in recent weeks amid speculation that sonar activity may have triggered the strandings. The Royal Navy said its nearest ship was over 60 nautical miles away at the time.

Irish Independent

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