I have a friend who’s an Irish county council worker. Her job description can jump from car park coin collector to being called to dispose of a 3 metre whale carcass on any given day!
Just a few months ago she was called out to a dead 3 metre long minke whale stranded on the shores of Furbo beach off the Galway Coast. Which begs the questions; what the heck do you do with a 3 metre long whale on a public beach? And what if he had been alive?
A few decades ago on the same beach, a large dead whale washed up onto the shore. The council at the time decided the best way to dispose of it was to blow it up with dynamite…yes you read that correctly-dynamite. They reasoned that the small pieces of whale flesh would be taken out to sea or eaten by scavengers like seagulls. Only they overestimated how much dynamite to use. The explosion rocketed most of the carcass towards land instead of the sea. For the next year the smell of rotting whale flesh permeated Furbo beach and the surrounding area (much to the locals dismay).
Needless to say, the people living near Furbo beach were terrified the council would decide to reach for the dynamite again in the case of the Minke whale.
According to my county council friend, they considered three options (that didn’t include dynamite!):
1) Puncture it and let it float back out to sea and sink.
2) Cut it up and transport it to an incinerator.
3) Bury it close by.
The most cost effective and safe option was to bury it in this case.
So what if the whale had been alive when beached?
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group have 3 cetacean rescue kits around the country including tarps, air mattress, buckets, and pontoon boats for transport of animals up to 6 metres long. An experienced veterinarian is to assess the condition of the dolphin or whale and determine if they are able to be transported or re-floated with a potentially successful outcome.
If not an option (i.e. The animal is grievously injured or too large) then humane euthanasia with an injectable barbiturate is administered by the vet. If too large for an injection, the creature must die naturally (I know, this made me cringe too when I read it in the guidelines). Unfortunately Ireland doesn’t have a suitable rehabilitation center to transport injured cetaceans to (another cringe moment…considering Ireland is an island in the Atlantic that has up to 200 cetacean strandings a year.)