UPDATE: Nova Scotia Provincial Parks says public access to the second and third beaches at Crystal Crescent is restricted until further notice while officials remove the whale carcass. "Please stay away from the area while officials tend to the matter," it says.
HALIFAX — Conservationists are trying to determine what to do with the carcass of a 25-metre long endangered blue whale that has washed up on a beach south of Halifax.
The Marine Animal Response Society said the Canadian Coast Guard notified it the whale was adrift late Wednesday and the animal washed ashore at Crystal Crescent Beach the next morning.
MARS response specialist Andrew Reid says there are no signs of external injuries on the whale’s body, so a full necropsy will be needed to determine the cause of death.
He said that this is only the third blue whale to wash up on Nova Scotian shores in the last four years.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the blue whale as an endangered species, though numbers have been growing. The IUCN estimates there are between 5,000 and 15,000 mature blue whales in the world. Major risk factors for the species include dwindling food supply due to fishing and harvesting and severe weather brought on by climate change.
Now, MARS is determining how best to dispose of the whale once the necropsy is complete.
Whale carcasses that wash ashore would usually be cut into smaller pieces and buried on site using an excavator, but the area is very rocky, Reid said, making it difficult to bring in the proper research and burial equipment.
"The shoreline around the whale consists of large rocks and cobblestones and would be really difficult for that excavator to work in," he said in an interview Friday. "There's quite a few shoals and rocks in the waters in front of the whale, so getting a boat big enough to move an animal of that size would have been quite difficult as well."
Reid said researchers will return to the site in the coming days following a storm surge caused by hurricane Larry, which is expected to be at its strongest late Friday night going into Saturday morning.
The body is likely to be quite battered by the storm, he added, meaning MARS will have to reassess its plan to collect data and dispose of the carcass once researchers are able to return to the area.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2021.
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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Danielle Edwards, The Canadian Press