Nfld. & Labrador

Newfoundland needs a dead whale plan, says small town mayor after $10K burial

The community of Humber Arm South found itself in a predicament last week when a 40-tonne sperm whale washed up on its shores.

Glenn Savard says the province was little help in removing dead whale

Town workers from Humber Arm South and some hired contractors laid this whale to its final resting place — along with a pile of lime to help it decompose. (Submitted photo)

It was a 40-tonne problem the community of Humber Arm South wished it never had to deal with, but a week after it washed up on shore, the sperm whale carcass is now in its final resting place.

The whale came ashore sometime last week, much to the chagrin of the town's mayor, Glenn Savard, who quickly realized it would be his responsibility to find a way to dispose of it. 

"We put a plan in action where we had local fishermen and our town workers go down and strap the whale and we pulled it off the beach in the Frenchman's Cove area," said Savard.

"We hauled it a little farther in the bay where we could find a place to pull it far enough to shore that we could actually bury it."

All hands on deck

Savard said they launched the operation during Thursday's low tide.

Town workers and hired contractors worked carefully to place wide, six-inch straps around the whale before hauling it away using a fishing vessel. 

Crews had to tie six-inch straps around the whale's body in order to pull it out to sea. (Glenn Savard)

They decided John's Beach would be the most appropriate burial location due to their ability to monitor and access the site.

They used a large excavator to dig a hole deep enough to bury the animal, spreading more than 60 bags of lime around the area to help with decomposition and the deterring of any hungry wildlife.

"We had some input from government services who were in touch with environment [officials] and whatnot, and that's where we got some of our procedures from," he said.

Costly visitor

Savard estimates the town is now on the hook for just over $10,000, a hefty price tag for being the unlucky hosts of this beached visitor.

He said he was speaking with Environment Minister Eddie Joyce about the possibility of receiving some financial assistance from the province, but so far has heard nothing back. 

They're also trying to connect with other municipalities who have gone through the same thing to see what avenues were explored.

Crews ended up using more than 60 bags of lime to place on and around the carcass to help with decomposition. (Glenn Savard)

"I just wish that there was some more stuff wrote somewhere, that there was actually a procedure for this that was spelled right out," said Savard.

"There's been a number of whales wash up on shore and we really need to get on board and actually write something so when the next one comes, it's 'Here's the procedure, go do it right away', and it's easy."

In the meantime, Savard said he's just relieved the whale is gone ahead of the upcoming crab and lobster season. 

With files from the Corner Brook Morning Show