Bid to install whale carcass in village sunk by objectors

A coastal community’s bid to salvage a whale skeleton for use as a tourist attraction has ended in a watery grave.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group described the dumping at sea yesterday of the remains of the fin whale which died in Baltimore Harbour, Co Cork, last summer, as a “missed opportunity”.

The carcass was towed from Roaringwater Bay beyond Fastnet Rock for disposal.

The operation was organised by Cork County Council following claims that the rotting carcass, anchored in Roaringwater Bay since the animal died in August, had become a health and environmental hazard.

The disposal ended any hopes that a local group in Baltimore had of salvaging the 18 metre ocean giant’s bones for display in the village.

The 30 tonne Atlantic fin whale died in August two days after becoming stranded in Baltimore harbour.

After incineration was ruled out, its remains were towed to a point near the east end of Carthy’s Island in Roaringwater Bay, where it was tethered to the sea bed.

Holes were drilled in the body to allow gasses to escape, and to speed up the decomposition process, in the hope that the skeleton could be retrieved within a few months.

Jerry Smith, who runs Aquaventures dive centre in Baltimore, was one of several local people who were working with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group to retrieve the bones and install them in the village.

But concerns were raised by groups in Schull about the rotting carcass.

Denis Quinlan was among a group which criticised the decision to locate the carcass within the bay — a Special Area of Conservation.

Mr Quinlan complained about a putrefying smell, a blubber oil slick, and the degeneration of wildlife activity, and he questioned the authorities on their decision to leave the remains there.

But Mr Smith said there was no evidence the carcass was a hazard.

“It was all conjecture and scaremongering from a small pressure group,” said Mr Smith.

“We had an alternative plan to deal with it. Everybody thought it was a great opportunity.

“I can understand why the county council has to move it but this is a lost opportunity.”

IWDG sighting co-ordinator Padraig Whooley was also critical of the decision to dump the remains at sea.

“Putting the bones on display would have been a fantastic opportunity to enhance the marine and coastal tourism potential of several towns in the area,” he said.

He accused “vested interests” of exaggerating claims about the rotting carcass.

“Whales have been dying at sea since time began. It’s the most natural thing in the world,” said Me Whooley.

“Towing it out to sea raises the very real possibility that this carcass could simply wash up on the coast again.”

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