Tuesday 21 October 2014

Dead whale stinks up Canadian town

Published 01/05/2014 | 06:52

A rotting blue whale carcass on the shore in Trout River, Canada. Photo: Don Bradshaw

The carcass of a blue whale is rotting on the shore on Canada's east coast, stinking up a town and triggering fears that it could burst.

Provincial officials said yesterday they are working with federal agencies to help small towns on Newfoundland's west coast deal with the rotting carcasses of whales, including one that washed ashore near the town of Trout River.

The town's clerk, Emily Butler, said the 85ft blue whale is beached next to a community boardwalk and is emitting a powerful stench that is spreading through the town of 600 people.

She said residents are worried that the methane gas brought on by decomposition could cause the animal to burst.

"I'm not sure with the heat and gases that are trapped inside of this mammal if at some point in time it will explode," Ms Butler said.

Jack Lawson, a research scientist with Canada's fisheries department, said the risk of the whale blowing up is "very small".

It is more likely gases will escape as the whale's skin breaks down, deflating like an old balloon, he said.

Local officials have raised health concerns, and worry that the stench could affect the looming tourism season.

The scientist said large, beached whales can either be buried with heavy equipment or cut up and shipped to a landfill.

Ms Butler asked the province's environment and government services departments as well as the federal fisheries department for help to remove the carcass.

She said the town council considered asking fishermen to tow the mammal out to sea but concluded it would need to be supervised by an expert.

"Nobody has been properly trained in the removal of whale carcasses of this size," she said.

The whale is one of three beached along Newfoundland's west coast.

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