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Councilman: Malibu Needs Protocols to Handle Future Dead Marine Animals

A group of citizens led the effort to remove the week-old carcass of a 35-foot, juvenile, male Fin whale at Little Dume after governmental agencies failed to take action.

Malibu Councilman John Sibert asked for the city to create better protocols Monday to handle future dead marine animals that wash ashore in Malibu.

Sibert lives near Little Dume, the beach where a 35-foot, juvenile, male Fin whale sat rotting at Little Dume for nearly a week before residents paid $8,000 for it to be towed out to sea.

"When it actually came down to the problem of this whale arriving, no one really knew or nobody really wanted to take responsibility. Now I don't want to point fingers. There's been too much of that," Sibert said at Mondays City Council meeting at Malibu City Hall. "When these kinds of things happen in the future, we have to find a way to make decisions quickly."

A necropsy performed by the California Wildlife Center determined the whale's back was broken, likely from a ship strike. Sibert said a necropsy is mandated under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

"At that point, there should have been a jurisdictional process to allow us to move forward with removing the whale from the beach. It didn't quite work that way," Sibert said. 

The whale was located on a private beach, but below the mean high tide line, meaning that it was under the jurisdiction of the California State Lands Commission.

"The State Lands Commission had decided they had to do a survey in order to determine whether it was on public lands. That was the process. That would have taken a week to 10 days. The problem is you have a decomposing whale," Sibert said.

He said in the end a Malibu resident went online and found a company based in Ventura, Channel Marine, Inc., that is equipped to remove whale carcasses and obtain the proper permits.

"It needed to be done before the thing disintegrated any further," Sibert said, adding that a group of residents, including businessman Bob Morris, raised the $8,000. 

"We had the permit from NOAA to tow the whale offshore," he said, adding that a tow cable was attached to the whale's tale and the carcass was easily removed as the tide came in. Sibert said the whale was taken 25 miles offshore to a place that was identified in the permit.

"The important thing is not to point fingers. This is an object lesson on how to handle emergencies," Sibert said. "Do we even have a way to approach these things and to make decisions sooner?"

The narrow beach where the whale sat for a week still smells and surfers remain concerned that the remaining oils from the decomposing whale could attract sharks to the area. Residents along nearby Zumirez Drive say they are concerned that the rotting whale could impact water quality testing along the beach.

Susan Burger December 11, 2012 at 02:59 PM
While our ever efficient government agencies attempt to distinguish their heads from their tails, the private sector gets the job done. What a shock.
Pamela Conley Ulich December 11, 2012 at 03:49 PM
With all due respect to Councilmember Sibert, perhaps self-reliance will serve Malibu better than Government.
Stuart McClay Smith December 11, 2012 at 04:16 PM
A sense of urgency and resourceful citizens solved the problem for $8,000. I am willing to bet more than that was spent by the various government agencies figuring out who's problem it was to solve, and the solution would have been some convoluted six-figure nightmare. Hooray for vigilante civics.
Terry December 11, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Counsel needs to elimate the shark tank off point dume during the summer. they are out of their mind if they think the sharks dont come back to their breeding grounds.
Junior December 11, 2012 at 05:00 PM
What does a shark tank have to do with shark's coming back to where his natural breeding grounds are? Aren't they there with or without the tank? The answer is Yes
John Mazza December 11, 2012 at 05:28 PM
It would be nice if the City of Malibu, who did not have protocols in place, would pick up the tab and refund the citizens money. It is not exactly like we don't pay the taxes.
Terry December 12, 2012 at 03:21 AM
junior dont surf. otherwise he would be aware of the great white landlord
Junior December 12, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Junior has been surfing for over 40 years, Terry. The men in grey suits come to the coast of Malibu at a certain age of their lives, regardless of Terry surfing, Junior surfing or a shark tank located off the coast. a quote from an article regarding the Malibu shark pen "But experienced surfers and lifeguards, while not eager for a one-on-one shark encounter, accept them as part of the natural order. Sharks are out there, with or without the Monterey experiment."
Cort Day December 12, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Checkout the video of the Pechanga Tribe harvesting the whale in question on the Malibu Times site. Interesting!
Gwen Lucoff December 13, 2012 at 06:47 PM
I think that instead of wasting the meat of these animals, by waiting till they are too purtrid do to any thing with them, We should butcher them up into workable pieces and distrubute to food banks or zoo's who might need the food to feed people and animals. I know this sounds weird to some of you, but whale meat is highly nutritiouse because of it's high fat content. I think this is a better solution than to tow it out to Sea and wait for it to return to shore at some other place. And even if the whale body is partially eaten by ? it's still going to probably end up on someone else's beach. Waste not, want not! Isn't this what the Native American's would have done?
Gwen Lucoff December 13, 2012 at 06:49 PM
This is what I'm talking about! all parts of this whale should be used, and not wasted
Cort Day December 13, 2012 at 07:28 PM
I agree! Call the tribes first. They were here first and know what to do.
Marcia Hanscom December 13, 2012 at 07:31 PM
The historical record suggests that the Native Americans would have likely allowed their brothers, the Condors & the Eagles & the Coyotes & the Wolves, to scavenge & feed on the whale on the beach, as happened for many many centuries before humans arrived.

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