Museum best option to remove blue whale carcass: Trout River mayor

Jamie Bennett
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When it comes to the fate of a blue whale carcass beached in Trout River, Mayor Paul Matthews says first thing’s first, and that is, removing the whale before the town faces a health crisis.

Jon Joy of Whale Release and Strandings takes baleen samples from a fresh bowhead whale carcass off Cape Bonavista on Friday. — Photo courtesy of  Brenda Taylor

During the past week there has been much debate about whether the carcass should be removed by the Royal Ontario Museum or whether the skeleton — or the skeleton of another dead whale in Rocky Harbour — should be left in the area as part of a scientific and tourist exhibit.

The mayor said his council met Friday where it was decided the assistance offered by the museum is the best solution, particularly since there has been no support offered by either the federal or provincial governments.

“Our primary concern was getting rid of the animal before it became an absolute health hazard,” Matthews said Sunday by phone from Arviat, Nunavut. “Basically until (the museum) came on board, we were told it’s our problem and the government has no role in it.

“We don’t have any resources and we have no hope of getting any from the federal or provincial governments.”

Matthews said Mark Engstrom of the Royal Ontario Museum, along with his research team, will be in Trout River early this week to do preliminary samples on the carcass.

He said from talking with Engstrom, he’s learned the team will separate the decomposing flesh from the whale before doing initial treatment.

The treatment will allow the skeleton to be removed from the beach in pieces.

“There’s about a one- to two-year process of cleaning and preservation of the bones for the future,” he said. “Our landfill has been closed since last August, so it’s to be decided what to do with the 60-tonnes of rotting, decomposing flesh.”

He said the town is in discussions with the museum about fostering an ongoing relationship which could include some sort of permanent display.

While he isn’t opposed to efforts from those in the community looking to keep the skeleton in the area, Matthews said the situation required an immediate solution.

“I understand fully the frustration of local people, but as a council we have to look after the best interests of the town without exception,” he said.

Trout River resident Jenny Parsons is among those in the community lobbying for the whale bones to remain in the region.

The owner of the Seaside Restaurant in Trout River said while she understands council couldn’t take on such a project alone, she remains hopeful the museum will find a suitable, local home for the rare whale bones or at least an educational exhibit.

“We’re going to keep the pressure on to get a blue whale skeleton,” Parsons said. “Not to leave it on the beach, or in my backyard or your front yard, but I hope somehow we can partner with them.”

She said after initial concerns regarding the health hazards of the rotting, 81-foot carcass, many in the town are now realizing the long-term importance of the whale washing ashore in Trout River.

“Once people settled down and saw the value and significance of this rare, magnificent creature people started to realize how wonderful that would be on the waterfront,”she said.



Organizations: Royal Ontario Museum, Seaside Restaurant

Geographic location: Trout River, Rocky Harbour, Arviat Nunavut

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Recent comments

  • Phil
    May 06, 2014 - 11:04

    If it sticks, use Frabreez. Want it gone, dump lye on it. Oh, and keep you pets inside or chained so they don't feed on it.

  • Agnes
    May 05, 2014 - 09:55

    If the Royal Ontario Museum becomes the beneficiary of this Blue Whale carcass we should set some conditions so that our province and Trout River area can get some recognition. No doubt the Federal Government will be injecting a couple of million dollars or more into this project, since the gentleman who has been doing all the negotiations said he has so far only collected $100,000 to transport the carcass to Ontario. He also said there has been a long term outstanding request from the Museum to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans asking should there be a Blue Whale wash ashore that it be appointed to the ROYAL ONTARIO MUSUEM. It appears that DFO had all the control over this whale, but it won't take control for the high-water mark to the shores of the province for anything that assists the province of NL or its fishers. DFO is all there to take the resources out of the sea in our area for the benefit of others but it is not at all a friend of the fishers and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. My suggestion is that if the ROM gets this prized whale there would be conditions put in place. At least the Federal Government and the Museum should do something in way of advertising Newfoundland and Labrador through the museum and that it bring ashore the other blue whale for the museum at Gros Morne Park. We should not be giving up our natural resources without receiving remuneration.

  • Fred
    May 05, 2014 - 06:25

    Don't worry if it is left in the area mother nature will look after the carcass and the local vandals will destroy the skeleton.