Nfld. & Labrador

How do you solve a problem like a dead whale? Lack of help is 'scandalous,' says mayor

You can't tow it, bury it or let it stay.

Humpback whale carcass showed up on popular beach over a week ago, and town can't find solution

On Tuesday, the dead humpback whale carcass washed ashore in Outer Cove drifted back into the water, but not back out to sea. (CBC)

A dead whale on a beach in Outer Cove is creating a bureaucratic nightmare for the community.

The humpback whale washed ashore in Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove on May 22.

Hopefully the next time we're talking, the whale will be gone out to sea and this will all just be a bad memory.- Mayor John Kennedy

As of Tuesday morning, the whale is still in the cove, and Mayor John Kennedy says unless Mother Nature changes the tide, not much is happening with the carcass.

"Sadly, there's still blubber and oil and everything seeping out of the carcass onto the beach and now it's covered the whole beach because it's drifting back and forth, rather than just the single site," said Kennedy.

On Monday, the rising tide brought the whale off the shoreline and back into the water.

But ice that broke off from a grounded iceberg in the cove has hemmed the carcass in, so it's still drifting along the popular beach just outside St. John's.

'It's a health hazard'

Kennedy said the town's been trying to get answers about what it can do to get the whale carcass moved, but it's been a "fiasco."

Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Mayor John Kennedy says there doesn't seem to be any help, or solution, for getting rid of the whale carcass. (Ted Dillon/CBC )

"We are 15 minutes away from the main coast guard base for the province that has dozens of ships and hundreds of employees and all kinds of equipment. This is now, not only a navigational hazard, it's a health hazard," he told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"And if this thing spreads to Middle Cove, then that's two of the very few beaches that we have on the northeast Avalon that people can go to. They're gonna be covered in blubber and offal and it's absolutely scandalous that this is being allowed."

At a regular council meeting on May 23, the town decided first to pursue towing the whale back out into the ocean. Council contacted Fisheries and Oceans Canada, who said it was actually the responsibility of Transport Canada because of the marine regulations.

Unable to bury it on site

Transport Canada said towing the whale further out in the water wasn't an option, and advised trying to find a landfill where the town could bury it.

Robin Hood Bay turned the town down, Kennedy said, as did the hazardous waste site in Sunnyside, who told the town to try burying it on site.

People are reminded to stay away from the humpback whale carcass washed ashore in Outer Cove. (DFO/Twitter)

"Our entire town is serviced by individual wells, so we were a full day trying to find a site to possibly bury the thing that wouldn't interfere with anyone's water supply. That wasn't an option," said Kennedy.

DFO also advised against that, because the wave action could erode the shore, and a buried whale takes about a decade to decompose.

Hoping to be a bad memory

The last option was to tow the whale to an isolated beach and let it rot there, but Kennedy said the town couldn't get anybody with expertise to respond to that request.

"We haven't even had a truck down to look at it, never mind a ship," he said.

The whale is back in the water as of Tuesday morning, and Kennedy said the town notified Transport Canada, hoping it would now be their responsibility — but no such luck.

Transport Canada advised the town to issue a notice to mariners, and that was the end of it.

Kennedy is hoping the winds and shifting tide will soon take the whale out of Outer Cove, so the beach has a chance to welcome tourists and locals to the popular destination by the time warmer temperatures arrive.

"Hopefully the next time we're talking, the whale will be gone out to sea and this will all just be a bad memory."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show