What do you do with a rotting 68-foot whale? California beach cleared of stinky carcass

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A massive whale washed up on a Southern California beach and was hauled off Saturday — but not before beachgoers got a whiff of the rotting carcass..

The adult female fin whale was found dead Wednesday evening, washed up on Bolsa Chica State Beach in Orange County and was taken to a landfill Saturday, California State Parks representative Kevin Pearsall told McClatchy News.

It took four hours for workers to cut apart and remove the whale from the beach and the entire process was finished by noon, according to Pearsall. “It was a gruesome and not a pleasant sight,” he said.

The whale measured around 68 feet, public affairs officer Michael Milstein for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told McClatchy News.

The whale had been dead for around 10 days and sitting on the beach for three days, according to Pearsall.

“It was a very strong odor the entire visit to the beach,” he said.

The Associated Press reported that the Orange County Health Care Agency said the whale “posed a health hazard” and the beach was shut down Friday — but Pearsall said that never happened.

“We never closed the beach,” he said. “There was no reason to. We deal with dolphins and whales on a regular basis and we did restrict people immediately around the whale and had a barrier set up around it the three days it was on the beach.”

The fin whale is the second-largest whale after the blue whale species and can grow up to 75 to 85 feet long, according to the NOAA.

The fin whale is endangered and vessel strikes are one of the biggest threats to the mammals, according to the NOAA. There are around 3,200 fin whales off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington.

Krysta Higuchi, public relations manager of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, said the whale is believed to be an adult female whale that was killed along with her calf by an Australian Royal Navy vessel off the San Diego coast and spotted earlier in May, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Experts also expressed concern that the dead whale could attract sharks on the beach.

“There’s always a concern when you have a dead marine mammal,” said Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab director Chris Lowe, The Orange County Register reported. “That, for a white shark, is a good meal.”

But because the whale had already been decomposing for a while, Pearsall said there was no need to be worried about sharks.

“When they’re more freshly dead, their oils are released from their bodies and that will attract sharks and other predators,” he said. “We had no concern on additional activity because the carcass had already been there such a large amount of time.”

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