By Louis Casiano
Published June 15, 2019
With no more places to store the gray whale carcasses washing ashore in Washington state, a federal agency is asking landowners to lend their properties as a final resting place for the marine mammals while they decompose.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries is asking for volunteers to use their land as a disposal site for the carcasses, which can measure up to 40 feet long. By doing so, they would be supporting the natural process of the marine environment, officials said.
The skeletons left behind can be used for educational purposes, they added.
"A cemetery for one," Mario Rivera, a landowner in Port Hadlock, located nearly 50 miles northwest of Seattle, told KING-TV. “The smell isn’t bad. It is very intermittent.”
About 30 whales have been stranded on Washington's coastline this year, the most in two decades. The gray whale population is estimated at 27,000.
About 70 whales have been found dead along the U.S. West Coast alone. Because of the unusually high number, NOAA declared it an "unusual mortality event."
"With the unusual mortality event of these gray whales, we know more whales will be coming in, or there is a high likelihood that more whales will die within Puget Sound and out on the coast," said Port Townsend Marine Science Center Citizen Science Coordinator Betsy Carlson.
Lime is being used to break down a whale carcass on the beach where Rivera lives.
"The lime appears to be working," he said. "It is decomposing nicely. I think. It’s not that bad so we are hoping other landowners will do this," Rivera said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.