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San Diego Baywatch rules out exploding dead whale

Hoff namesake fears huge rotting carcass will kick up stink

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A dead beached whale in San Diego is going to be sticking around for another few days as authorities wait for better tides to help them shift the 50-foot (15m) cetacean.

The fin whale, which was discovered on Saturday at 2pm local time by workers from the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, probably won't be shifted until Tuesday or Wednesday, lifeguard Greg Buchanan (presumably no relation to the Hoff's Baywatch character) told SignOnSanDiego.com.

The lifeguard service is coordinating the removal with agencies like the Coast Guard, San Diego Parks and Recreations Department, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is trying to figure out how the whale died.

The agencies are waiting for tides that will help them lift the beast and pull it into deeper waters.

Buchanan said there are three options for dealing with a dead whale: letting it rot on the beach, towing it out to sea to destroy it or hauling it to a landfill. He must not have heard about the fourth option: blowing it to bits with explosives as they used to do in the '70s:

In this case, the agencies are going for the landfill option, since decomposition would be pretty odorous for the nearby workers at the wastewater plant and they're not able to destroy it at sea.

“One reason we want to get it out as soon as possible is so that the smell won’t be overpowering,” Buchanan said.

The landfill plan entails the lifeguards towing the carcass out to sea and then to Fiesta Island, where it can be loaded onto a truck and taken to a landfill.

If the lifeguards find that it is too hard to budge the whale, they may have to leave it where it is, Buchanan said.

The fin whale is the second-largest living animal after the blue whale and can grow to nearly 90 feet (27,5m) long. Studies in the last two decades indicate there are around 1,600 to 3,200 fin whales off the coast of California, though there are larger populations in the North Atlantic and Antarctic Ocean. ®

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