A dead whale that washed up in Outer Cove on the northeast coast of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula over the weekend is attracting dozens of onlookers, but people are being warned against venturing too close to the creature.

"Like most mammals, they host a variety of bacterial and viral infections as a normal part of their life," said marine researcher Jack Lawson, who warned people — and pets — to keep their distance. 

Similarly, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans warned the public Tuesday to stay back "due to possible disease transmission or injury."

Tow it or bury it, says mayor

Lawson said the whale is an adult male humpback that had been dead for several weeks, but its cause of death will likely remain a mystery. 

Also up in the air is who will remove or deal with the carcass. 

Mayor Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove

Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Mayor John Kennedy says the town needs help from provincial or federal departments to remove the whale, if Mother Nature doesn't act first. (Ted Dillon/CBC )

Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Mayor John Kennedy says the town is waiting to hear back from officials at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the provincial government.

"We need an expert in this … we're hoping that Mother Nature brought it in, Mother Nature's going to take it away," said Kennedy. 

"It will either be towed out or bury it, I don't know. Because of the size of it, its not going to be an easy job," he said.

Outer Cove beach whale

Dozens of people flocked to the beach to see the dead whale, but pets and people should keep their distance. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Whale fat-seasoned capelin?

Lawson said the downside is that a lot of the whale's fat will emulsify and float off. 

"All these oils, they don't dissolve in the water for a long time," he said. 

"So the issue is, if you're looking for capelin in a few weeks, they may be tasting a bit like whale fat."

Jack Lawson

Marine researcher Jack Lawson says the oils from the dead whale could affect the taste of capelin. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Lawson said he might be convinced to eat a capelin from Outer Cove beach if — and only if — the whale gets removed "right away," and there are some heavy rains. 

"Otherwise, I'd go to Middle Cove [beach] … In a few weeks, if this animal is still here, and it's looking like it might stay, yeah, I'd be a bit worried."

With files from Martin Jones