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A dead sperm whale was towed out to sea Monday afternoon after it washed up around a fishing pier in Deerfield Beach, Fla., and the city's mayor refused to allow a necropsy due to the stench.
“It was quite ripe. They were gagging. Those guys down there were gagging,” Deerfield Beach Mayor Peggy Noland said of paramedics and lifeguards who were near the whale. “So can you imagine what would have happened if they had cut it open? No one would have gone to my beach for two months.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating a report that a swimmer got on top of the whale as it was dying on Sunday off Pompano Beach.
It would have been very useful for scientists to do a necropsy on the whale from both a conservation and a biological perspective, said Blair Mase, NOAA’s southeast regional stranding coordinator. And determining if the animal was killed by human causes is important in terms of management, she said.
But the agency was unable to bring the 30-foot-long animal up on the beach for a thorough examination because the mayor didn’t want a dead whale there, she said.
“That was unfortunate, but we have to work within the confines of the people who take care of our beaches, and that was the mayor today, and so we’re working with that,” Mase said. “And so she was trying to do her job, and we were trying to do ours.”
Noland said she understood that a necropsy would have been scientifically useful.
“I agree 100 percent, but she was not going to cut it up on my beach,” Noland said.
The whale was found at 7:30 a.m., according to Noland.
“We were afraid it was going to get under the pier because of the waves and stuff, so what they did was tie it under the backhoe, on the sand, for NOAA,” she said.
Noland said they waited two and a half hours for five people from NOAA to arrive. She said she expected the agency would come with equipment to remove the whale for its research – and repeatedly expressed her disappointment that it did not.
Noland said her responsibility is to her residents, businesses and tourists, as the whale washed up next to the fishing pier next to her main beach.
“One of the girls said, ‘if we chop off its head.’ I thought, ‘You got to be kidding me. We’ve got 500 people on the beach,’” Noland said.
She said that if the whale were cut up, it would have been like chum for sharks – and claimed that the stench would have stayed on the beach for a month.
Mase said NOAA’s team was able to take some external measurements, determining that the female sperm whale was 30 feet long. They collected some skin and blubber from the whale, which was very thin and underweight, she said.
Noland said Deerfield Beach paid for a private towing company, Sea Tow, to take the carcass over five miles out in the ocean. She said she hopes it doesn’t show up in Boynton Beach or anywhere else.
But Mase said there is a chance the whale may wash up elsewhere – and if it does, NOAA will try to do a thorough examination to investigate potential causes of death.
Pompano Beach resident Margie Casey said Sunday that she saw two swimmers twice go up to the whale – and took photos of one swimmer getting on the animal.
The swimmers violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act by being within 100 yards of a free-swimming whale, Mase said.
“NOAA Office of Law Enforcement is currently investigating what happened yesterday with the people riding the whale,” she said.