TROUT RIVER, Newfoundland – The 60-ton carcass of a blue whale is rotting on the shore on Canada's east coast, stinking up a town and triggering fears that it could burst.
Provincial officials said Wednesday they're working with federal agencies to help small towns on Newfoundland's west coast deal with the rotting carcasses of whales, including one that washed ashore near the town of Trout River.
The town's clerk, Emily Butler, said the 26-meter (28.4-yard) blue whale is beached next to a community boardwalk and is emitting a powerful stench that is spreading through the town of 600 people. Butler said residents are worried that the methane gas brought on by decomposition could cause the animal to burst.
"I'm not sure with the heat and gases that are trapped inside of this mammal if at some point in time it will explode," Butler said.
Jack Lawson, a research scientist with Canada's Fisheries Department, said the risk of the whale blowing up is "very small."
It's more likely gases will escape as the whale's skin breaks down, deflating like an old balloon, Lawson said. Local officials have raised health concerns, and worry that the stench could affect the looming tourism season.
The scientist said large, beached whales can either be buried with heavy equipment or cut up and shipped to a landfill.
Butler asked the province's Environment and Government Services departments as well as the federal Fisheries Department for help to remove the carcass. Butler said the town council considered asking fishermen to tow the mammal out to sea but concluded it would need to be supervised by an expert. "Nobody has been properly trained in the removal of whale carcasses of this size," she said.
The whale is one of three beached along Newfoundland's west coast.