‘Whale must be left to die naturally’

The 30 tonne fin whale beached in a West Cork harbour must be left to die naturally, according to dolphin and whale experts.

‘Whale must be left to die naturally’

Hundreds more people gathered at Baltimore pier to look at the 18 metre injured fin whale which arrived in the port early on Tuesday morning. Fin whales are the second largest whales on the planet.

Baltimore Lifeboat cox-wain Kieran Cotter said he couldn’t “face going down to the pier yesterday as it’s just not a nice sight”. There is a lot of blood in the waters around the mammal, estimated to be around 20 years old.

Locals have called for the whale to be euthanised but Whale and Dolphin Group co-ordinator Simon Berrow said the group’s options are few.

“We have to do the best by the whale. It’s not about making people feel good,” said Dr Berrow. “It can’t be refloated as it’s so emaciated, it would be cruel. Secondly, it can’t be rehabilitated as we don’t have the facilities in this country. The third option is euthanasia and how do you put down a 30 tonne whale?

“In this country, we use pentabarbitone to put down cattle and horses but they would be the largest animals that could be put down using that drug. Immobilin was used in Larne Lough to put down a whale six years ago. But that drug is so toxic that it is not licensed in this country.

“The other alternative is to shoot it through the head with a high-velocity rifle. That’s a highly trained operation and it would be up to the gardaí or National Parks and Wildlife to do that. Do they really want to do that?” Mr Cotter said the whale “initially seemed quite comfortable on Tuesday morning but as the afternoon progressed it went berserk and started roaring”.

The whale was initially stuck against a pier wall in the inner harbour after it came in on a low tide. It moved 300m-400m offshore before coming back into the inner port. It is believed it wounded itself on sharp rocks close to the pier.

Once it dies, the whale is the responsibility of the local authority. It is Cork County Council policy that beached whales, when they die, are removed from the sea and brought for incineration to Co Waterford.

More in this section