Two rotting blue whale carcasses on the shoreline of two western Newfoundland towns have residents worried about the upcoming tourist season.
Trout River and Rocky Harbour are both located near Gros Morne National Park, and have had dead blue whales wash ashore.
The rotting masses have kicked up a stink — both figuratively and literally.
Jenny Parsons, who owns Seaside Restaurant in Trout River, says the rotting whale in her town is close enough to her business that you can, "almost reach out and touch it."
She said her business is set to reopen for the summer season in a matter of weeks, and she's hoping the whale will be dealt with by then.
"Normally we advertise whales to get people to come, where the restaurant is right on the beach and we often have whales in the cove frolicking about, but we don't want a dead whale as an attraction," said Parsons.
Look, but don't touch, DFO warns
According to Parsons, people have been coming to the community to see the whale, but aren't giving enough thought to the health risks involved.
"People have been so close they've been actually standing on it … not a good idea, because if somebody gets swallowed into the insides of that whale it's going to be quite dangerous to get them out of there," she said.
Jack Lawson, a fisheries scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said it's important for people not to touch the rotting carcasses.
According to Lawson, there are viruses and bacteria carried by the whales that can be transferred by touch.
Who should pay the cost?
Rocky Harbour Mayor Walter Nicolle said the government and DFO are telling the communities they have to deal with the carcasses.
Nicolle said it's a difficult task to get rid of such a big animal, and small communities like his don't have the resources.
"We talked to DFO and they don't want to take responsibility to remove the whale. The whale is in the Rocky Harbour boundaries, so the cost should be [covered] by the town," said Nicolle.
Parsons said the council in Trout River is dealing with the same problem — what to do with the world's largest mammal when it washes up on your shore?
Nicolle said the DFO won't pay to remove it, and has to grant clearance before the town is allowed to move it.
"It's in their jurisdiction when it comes to us removing the whale, but it's in our jurisdiction when it comes to costs of removing it."
Nicolle said time is running out for Rocky Harbour to find help getting rid of the whale, and every day the stink is getting worse.