With Newfoundland’s (and Labrador’s) long history of giveaways, it shouldn’t be surprising that Ontarians arrived this week to take possession of two dead blue whales that washed ashore on the province’s west coast.
The rare animals’ remains will eventually be taken to the Royal Ontario Museum.
Typical of the dearth of quality leadership in this province, not a peep of protest emanated from the government as this massive giveaway progressed.
Most of the public discussion about the beached whales — including a sperm whale — has been about the potential stench as they decompose and, of course, the possibility that the buildup of gasses in the carcasses might cause them to explode, although burst would be a more accurate word.
The eagerness to get rid of the dead blue whales is baffling.
The animals are extremely rare, living or dead.
They are an endangered species. According to the University of British Columbia’s website, there are only 21 blue whale skeletons on display worldwide, one of which is at UBC’s Beaty Biodiversity Museum.
The UBC blue whale skeleton made national headlines in 2008, when the carcass was dug up on a P.E.I. beach, where it had been buried in 1987.
It was stripped of remaining flesh and shipped to Vancouver.
The two blue whales beached in western Newfoundland will be stripped of their flesh and shipped to Toronto.
Something about this situation stinks, and it involves more than offensive odours.
It is astounding that absolutely no effort was made to keep at least one blue whale skeleton — and preferably both — in this province.
There are only two blue whale skeletons on display in Canada — the one noted above at UBC, and one at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.
The latter is from a blue whale that beached in Codroy, N.L., in 1975, according to the museum’s website.
Keeping the blue whale specimens in the province is possible, were there any desire to do so.
The municipalities of Trout River and Rocky Harbour — where the carcasses are located — have jurisdiction over their disposal.
- Read more special articles:
- Blue whale dismantling in Rocky Harbour finishes up
- Museum’s decision on Rocky Harbour blue whale expected next week
- Learning lessons from the whales
- Costs have museum reassessing plan to handle two blue whales
The provincial government could offer to assume all costs and take possession of the whales.
In a recent news report, an official from the Royal Ontario Museum said it would cost “tens of thousands of dollars” to render the carcasses into skeletons.
If the provincial government had any foresight and imagination — although plenty of evidence suggests it lacks both — it would make plans to display one blue whale skeleton at The Rooms in St. John’s and the other in the vicinity of Rocky Harbour or Gros Morne National Park.
Never mind the tourism potential. Residents of this province — with its much-touted seafaring history and maritime culture — deserve no less.
Anyone who objected to the cost of such a venture could be directed to read other headlines from this week.
In the House of Assembly, there was a bit of arguing over the $10 million the provincial government has poured into a privately owned wood-pellet plant in Roddickton, which has yet to produce any wood pellets.
Predictably, the government describes this expenditure as an “investment,” although other words come to mind, such as boondoggle and sinkhole.
The deaths of nine blue whales this spring in the ice of the Gulf of St. Lawrence were a biological tragedy.
Their bodies should not be treated as mere flotsam to be gotten rid of.
Whoever has the authority should tell the Royal Ontario Museum that the deal is off.
After all, the provincial government showed this week it is willing to rip up contracts.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at
The Telegram. He can be reached