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Pregnant whale washes up on Point Loma

Environmental CleanupNatural ResourcesConservationNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationEndangered SpeciesPlan B (drug)

POINT LOMA, Calif. -- A dead 50-foot fin whale washed ashore an isolated Point Loma beach over the weekend was apparently pregnant, officials said.

The whale washed up near the Point Loma Waste Treatment Plant on Gatchell Road sometime before 2 p.m. Saturday, San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Greg Buchanan said. The beached whale was not decomposed, indicating that it had not been dead long.

Experts determined that the whale was a female, then later discovered she was pregnant. 

To take advantage of optimal ocean tide conditions, authorities plan to wait until Wednesday to remove the dead whale from the remote Point Loma beach, a lifeguard service spokesman said Monday.

Wednesday morning's high tide, peaking just before 7 a.m., will give city and Coast Guard crews a good opportunity to haul the dead whale back into the ocean. Lifeguards tied a rope around its tail Sunday and plan to use a twin- engine 35-foot vessel to do the job, the lieutenant said.

"If it doesn't work, we have to go to Plan B, which we haven't created right now," explained Lt. Buchanan

Scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service will inspect it and try to determine what killed the animal. City crews then will take the remains to a landfill for disposal, Buchanan said.

Staff at the Waste Treatment Plant hope the plan for removal works.  The smell is starting to overwhelm the site.

"A decaying, fleshy kind of an odor," described plant superintendent Davit Huntamar, "From what I understand, it's going to get worse before it gets better."

Fin whales, nicknamed the "greyhound of the sea'' because they can swim as fast as 23 mph, are the second-largest species of whale and can grow up to 75 feet and weigh 70 tons, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The whale is on the U.S. endangered species list.

A father and his children attempted to sneak into the area to catch a glimpse of the whale, but were quickly kicked off the property Monday, according to the Point Loma Waste Treatment Plant officials.  The property is off limits to the general public.  Waste treatment officials encourage anyone that wants to see the whale, to tune into the local news.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Environmental CleanupNatural ResourcesConservationNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationEndangered SpeciesPlan B (drug)