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Baltimore Whale Carcass Creating 'Rancid Oil Slick' in Conservation Area

19th October 2012
Baltimore Whale Carcass Creating 'Rancid Oil Slick' in Conservation Area

#BALTIMORE WHALE - Nine weeks after the tragic demise of the Baltimore Harbour fin whale, its carcass is still afloat off West Cork, creating a “rancid oil slick” in a special conservation area, according to a local resident.

Tom McCarthy contacted Afloat.ie with the above image of the 65ft whale carcass, which was towed out to the grey seal breeding ground off the Carthys Islands in Roaringwater Bay and has apparently been left to rot.

“It has been left here since the middle of August to decay,” says Tom. “The rancid oil slick is clearly visible and extends for over 1km on relatively still days, the smell is horrendous."

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, plans were afoot to sink the fin whale carcass that was trapped in Baltimore Harbour in mid-August and endured a harrowing few days trapped in Baltimore Harbour before it died from what's presumed to be a combination of illness and injury.

Tom McCarthy claims that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has washed its hands of the situation, considering the enormous marine mammal carcass to be a natural occurrence "even though the animal beached and died several miles [away and] was wrapped in a net and towed to its final resting position".

The location is in a Special Area of Conservation - yet according to Tom, no risk assessment appears to have been carried out beforehand.

"Ten minutes on the internet would show that whales are perhaps the most contaminated animals in the world," he says. "Their blubber is contaminated with persistent organic compounds such as PCBs, DDT, dioxins, etc and the internal organs such as the liver and kidneys are 'high', 'very high' or 'staggeringly high' in mercury, cadmium, chromium, etc.

"Some beached whales are found to be so contaminated the whale itself has to be considered as hazardous waste and disposed of as such."

Tom notes that the area is fished extensively for shrimp, crab, lobster and pollock, and that the rotting carcass is in close proximity to several mussel farms.

"It seems inevitable that as the whale continues to decay and is eaten whatever contaminants were present prior to death will re-enter the food chain."

He compares the current situation to a similar whale carcass disposal in Sligo last year, where the flesh was cut off and sent for incineration while the bones were marked for later skeletal recreation and sent for composting.

Regarding the West Cork whale carcass, Tom says: "Some estimates say it will take three years for the whale to completely decay."

Tom adds that he has been in contact with Cork County Council and hopes to hear on Monday about plans for a more appropriate method of disposal for the whale carcass.

Published in Marine Wildlife
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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