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Shark bait? Rotting whale on Malibu beach raises fear

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While officials on Friday mulled what to do with a whale carcass rotting on a beach in ritzy Malibu, Calif., some locals were worried it might attract some unwanted visitors: sharks.


Five days after the carcass landed on the beach, officials from the city, county and state were still unsure about what to do and who would do it.

"We have not yet been informed of any removal plans," Malibu spokeswoman Olivia Damavandi told NBC News Friday morning.

Readers on Malibu Patch exchanged comments criticizing the delay, and how to dispose of the juvenile fin whale, which weighed an estimated 40,000 pounds before seabirds got to it.


"Burying the whale where it lays will cause an oil slick to emanate from the burial spot, attracting sharks for many years," posted one reader, referring to the fact that the whale's blubber will gradually decay into oil.

The comments included an earlier incident in San Onofre, Calif., where surfers attributed an increase in shark sightings to the burial of a whale at a nearby beach.

Damavandi said she didn't know if sharks could become a problem, but added that "as somebody who surfs in Malibu quite often, my common sense tells me it is probably not the best idea to enter the ocean anywhere near the whale carcass."

Nick Ut / AP

People on Thursday look at the dead male fin whale in Malibu, Calif.

Cindy Reyes, director of the Malibu-based California Wildlife Center, echoed that "common sense" gut feeling.

Officials on Thursday said they feared the carcass was too decomposed to be able to tow it out to sea, and Reyes told NBC News that the center had arranged for a professional marine tow service to go to the site Friday for an evaluation.

"If it's too decomposed," she said, "it would have to stay where it is."

Boaters captured video of a humpback whale lifting its tail out of the waters of Dana Point, California. TODAY.com's Dara Brown reports.

The whale washed up between Paradise Cove and Point Dume, near the homes of celebrities like Barbra Streisand and Bob Dylan.

It appeared to have been hit by a ship and had a gash to its back and a damaged spine, according to the results of a necropsy by the California Wildlife Center. 

Fin whales are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. They can grow to up to 85 feet, weigh up to 80 tons and live for up to 90 years.

The West Coast population of fin whales was estimated at around 2,500 in 2003, down from nearly 3,300 in 1996, the federal government says.

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