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Newfoundland coastal communities face explosion risk from dead whales

30 April 2014

Nine blue whales, the largest animals in the history of the planet, have been crushed by ice and killed off the coast of Newfoundland in Eastern Canada. Carcasses have begun washing up in coastal communities, with at least three ashore on town beaches by April 29, according to the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Stock image
Stock image

The carcasses pose serious problems for these communities. Normally in Canada, whale carcasses are washed ashore far from human habitation, where they provide food for carnivores and eventually rot away.

Emily Butler, town clerk of one of the affected communities, Trout River, told Global News it was not realistic to let the nearly 25-metre whale rot on the beach during the summer months.
“It’s only going to be a matter of time before it warms up and the smell becomes unbearable,” she said, adding businesses along the boardwalk were concerned about the effects the stench could have on the tourist season.

Butler also told the BBC that another problem was the explosion risk from methane in the bloated, decomposing carcass, which could threaten the town. Last year, a sperm whale carcass that washed up on the Faroe Islands exploded as a biologist attempted to dissect it.

Ms Butler insisted Trout River, a town of 600 people, did not have the resources to deal safely with the carcass, though federal and provincial officials say it is the town's responsibility.

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