As a 40,000-pound, 40-foot fin whale carcass rapidly decomposes on Little Dume beach, officials are still trying to determine how, when and who should remove the remains.
"There are big questions over who presides over the beach, where the whale carcass is located and what is the most appropriate way to remove the whale," said Olivia Damavandi, a spokesperson for the City of Malibu.
Towing the carcass out to sea is the best option at this point, according to California Wildlife Center Executive Director Cindy Reyes.
Since it does not own any beach in Malibu, the city takes no responsibility for the whale's removal but remains an interested party, Damavandi said. The county and state have emerged as prime candidates to take charge of the removal, though no one knows for sure.
The whale has vastly decomposed in the last four days, making its removal extremely time sensitive. Reyes said the animal would probably fall apart if there were attempts to tow it any later than the next few days.
"Even if somebody steps up and says, 'OK, we'll do it,' the conditions for moving it would have to be just right," Reyes said. "It needs to happen during a pretty high tide because the animal weighs many tons."
Ideally, the remains would be towed out to sea during high tide on Friday. There was talk of removing the whale on Thursday, but those plans did not come to fruition.
There are conflicting reports as to whether Los Angeles County Lifeguards will take charge of the removal or if state officials will take the reins. If the whale continues to decompose, Reyes said burial would be possible but a difficult option given the size of the carcass.
The fin whale, estimated to be 2 or 3 years old, was found on Little Dume early Monday morning. Based on a large bump on its back, experts believe the whale died after colliding with a boat. Fin whales typically live 80 to 90 years and grow up to 85 feet in length. Fin whales are listed as endangered species but are commonly spotted along the California coast.