Dead baleen whale finally removed from Agat shores
by Allyson Chiu
Guam - It's been nearly a month since a dead baleen whale washed ashore in Agat and residents have finally had enough.
The original plan of action was to leave the whale and "let nature take its course". However, the smell and other safety concerns proved too much to handle for the residents living near the carcass. Department of Agriculture biologist Brent Tibbatts told KUAM News, "It was starting to smell pretty bad and there's a possibility that dead whales can carry diseases that are transmissible to humans. Human safety concerns as well. Sometimes people don't like the thought of other people looking for trophies or something around their house."
During a closed door meeting held earlier this month, Agriculture came up with a contingency plan, which was set in motion last week Friday and concluded this morning.
The agency was contacted by Agat mayor Carol Tayama and worked with the Department of Public Works to dispose of the carcass in the Layon landfill. "Last week we removed just about all of the bones that were left with the whale. This morning a backhoe was going down and we're going to haul away what's left of the carcass and dispose of that and if there were any bones left in the carcass those are going to be retrieved by some University of Guam graduate students. The bones are all going to be put aside for about a year or two and let them get cleaned up. And then they're going to try to be put on display or at least used for educational purposes at the university," she explained.
Tibbatts also addressed growing concerns theorizing that sonar usage is causing more whales to beach themselves on Guam's shores. He assures residents that occasional strandings are to be expected. "If you look back in the literature, historically Guam averages about a stranding a year a little over a stranding a year, a whale or a dolphin or both. And so having one a year is nothing unusual," he said. "There's been some hypotheses that sonar use in the water can affect whales and make them beach themselves in some parts of the world that seems to happen more frequently. Generally though it's toothed whales, whales with teeth, are the whales that respond negatively to sonar or seem to be. This was a baleen whale. This was not a toothed-whale."
According to Tibbatts this whale judging from its size and lack of any obvious injuries or diseases simply died of old age and was washed ashore by the tides.
In the event of future strandings, Tibbatts advises locals to contact the Department of Agriculture at 735-3955 or 735-3956.