Dead whale dragged out to sea

May 9, 2008 6:21:24 PM PDT
For people on Pier 27, removal of a dead whale came just in time. The stench was starting to be a problem.

Grey whales come to San Francisco Bay quite often. They migrate from Alaska all the way down to Mexico. They feed here, but it's not often that they die here. That's when issues become complicated.

You might think of '"Survey 3" as the little boat that could. On board was a maintenance crew from the Port of San Francisco that somehow pulled out the biggest mess of the day, the week, the month, the year, or longer.

"We estimate that the whale is somewhere between 30 and 35 feet long," says Renee Dunn with the Port of San Francisco.

The dead, one-year-old California grey whale may have been there several days. Experts say the cause is unknown.

"I think this is a part of nature. This baby whale could have died in a beach in Mendocino or on a beach off the coast of Oregon," says naturalist Stan Minasian with the Oceanic Society.

Instead, it turned up in San Francisco pinned between the pilings, unmoved by winds or tides. At first, people working at Pier 27 wondered about the source of an increasing smell.

The official confirmation came Thursday night, followed by a jurisdictional quandry. Should the Coast Guard deal with this or mammal experts? Who would do the paperwork? Through late morning they debated while locals watched and waited.

It brings to mind the iconic, worst-case scenario from 1974 in Florence, Oregon when after 10 days of indecision the State Highway Department stepped in with 25 cases of dynamite, relocating portions of that whale from the beach onto people and cars.

The good news is that in San Franicsco, this time, the port got it right.

"Well, it's on our property," says Dunn.

And so, their responsibility. After pulling the whale free, the port hired a tugboat which will tow the carcass 40 miles out to sea -- a better final resting place for all concerned.

Twice in the last 300 years, man has nearly hunted grey whales to extinction. They're now back very strong, numbering 25,000 by the latest estimate.

Experts think that in this case the whale was separated from its mother.

ABC7 Video Extra
From the ABC7 Video Vault: Watch Wayne Freedman's report from May 24, 1995 on the removal of a dead whale from the Oregon coast.

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