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Agencies at odds over disposal of dead whale

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Posted: Friday, December 7, 2012 12:15 pm

State, local and national agencies are pointing fingers in every direction over who should be responsible for disposing of a 40,000-pound Fin whale carcass that has been stranded on Little Dume beach for nearly a week

As of midday Friday, the 40-foot Fin whale carcass remained on the beach with no eminent plans to remove it. Nearby residents have complained of foul odor emanating from the remains. 

"Somebody said it was State Parks property, and I said, 'I’ll bet you a steak dinner it isn’t,'" said Craig Sap, State Parks superintendent for the Angeles District. 

According to Sap and Los Angeles County Lifeguard officials, the California State Lands Commission presides over Little Dume.

But according to the State Lands Commission, National Marine Fisheries Services is responsible for figuring out how to dispose of the carcass.  

"We get calls like this on whales but we came to the conclusion it was National Marine Fisheries responsibility," said David Brown, a spokesperson for State Lands.

And according to NMFS officials, their agency was designated responsible for examining and testing the animal, but not obligated to dispose of it. 

"Fisheries has authority to respond to animals, but there’s not a requirement for disposal of stranded animals," said Sarah Wilkin, stranding coordinator for NMFS. 

Each agency, along with the City of Malibu, said they are working together to find a solution, but no clear-cut proposal has been put forth.

During the first few days, there was talk of towing the animal out to sea and one attempt to tow it was made on Thursday, according to a County Lifeguard spokesman. 

"We tried once unsuccessfully to pull it out yesterday but it was too heavy," the spokesman said. "The carcass could be cut up for all I know." 

For now, the whale continues to decompose and could soon become impossible to tow out to sea. LA County Lifeguard officials said they are consulting with experts on other non-towing options for disposal, but would not specify what other options they might have. 

As for who will take charge of the disposal, no one seems to know yet.

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