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.