Seahurst whale updates: No more touching; no removal plan yet

April 15, 2013 at 8:11 pm | In Not WS but we're mentioning it anyway, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 30 Comments

With everything else that’s been happening today, the saga of the dead fin whale at Seahurst Park slid out of the spotlight, but we do have two updates tonight: First, its resting place on the beach has finally been cordoned off to end the spate of illegal touching – thanks to “Diver Laura” James for allowing us to share her photo. Second, authorities are facing extra logistical challenges in trying to remove it, including those posed by what the whale’s carcass is missing - Robin Lindsey from Seal Sitters has been talking with federal and local officials and has an update online here. If you missed the previous coverage, the whale – missing about half of its body, not all lengthwise, so it’s still more than 50 feet long – washed up at Seahurst this past Saturday morning; researchers believe it was hit by a ship, but that might have happened many miles away.

30 Comments

  1. By what law was it actually illegal to touch the whale?

    Comment by Lura Ercolano — 9:21 pm April 15, 2013 #

  2. @Lura I don’t know for certain why, but my guess is both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which both apply their protections to living and dead animals, and their parts. I believe it is similar to how it is illegal to touch a bald eagle feather, for example.

    Comment by Gabby — 10:02 pm April 15, 2013 #

  3. Lura
    Fin whales are protected by both the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Tampering with or removing parts from the carcass is prohibited, and personal possession of any parts from a listed animal is a violation of the ESA.
    While I cannot find specific wording on touching a deceased listed animal, I think it falls under the ESA and MMPA as well.

    I was there on Sunday. Most people showed respect and expressed sadness for the whale, but others treated this magnificent animal like a sideshow. The amount of physical contact, climbing on, and the theft of baleen of the whale was appalling and disheartening. Difficult to witness so many fellow humans behave in such a way.

    Comment by seewhatsealionsstart — 10:23 pm April 15, 2013 #

  4. It was disheartening to see the earlier photo of the dad letting his daughter walk onto the whale.

    Comment by sara — 10:42 pm April 15, 2013 #

  5. I was honestly shocked by the number of pictures of people touching the whale. It’s just insane to me.

    Comment by Cait — 11:27 pm April 15, 2013 #

  6. just drag it back in the water for food for other fish and things duh

    Comment by w.s. maverick — 5:51 am April 16, 2013 #

  7. From the Endangered Species Act:

    “(8) The term “fish or wildlife” means any member of the animal kingdom, including without limitation any mammal, fish, bird (including any migratory, nonmigratory, or endangered bird for which protection is also afforded by treaty or other international agreement), amphibian, reptile, mollusk, crustacean, arthropod or other invertebrate, and includes any part, product, egg, or offspring thereof, or the dead body or parts thereof.”

    http://www.fws.gov/endangered/laws-policies/section-3.html

    ________

    PROHIBITED ACTS

    http://www.fws.gov/endangered/laws-policies/section-9.html

    While I didn’t see anything that specifically said touching (like “gently, with one finger,” as you are instructed to do at the aquarium), there is this:

    “(B) remove and reduce to possession any such species from areas under Federal jurisdiction; maliciously damage or destroy any such species on any such area; or remove, cut, dig up, or damage or destroy any such species on any other area in knowing violation of any law or regulation of any State or in the course of any violation of a State criminal trespass law”

    Certainly removing teeth or baleen would be in violation?

    Comment by wsbliss — 6:16 am April 16, 2013 #

  8. There seems to be some confusion between concepts of “good taste” and what is harmful or illegal. Perhaps a child who touched the whale will actually grow up to be a preeminent whale biologist. Neither “sadness and respect” for the dead animal nor “joy and excitement” over seeing baleen in person, has an impact on species preservation, the environment, etc.
    .
    “Tampering” with the carcass was not endangering any living whale. Tampering laws prevent poaching, and prevent interfering with an investigation, etc.

    Comment by Lura Ercolano — 6:26 am April 16, 2013 #

  9. No confusion here…perhaps we just took the time to address what appeared to be a question and contributed our personal thoughts/experiences in one post.

    I think humans (of all ages) reactions experiences influences how they choose to contribute in all aspects of preserving species and the environment, be that by becoming a scientific, teaching their fellow humans, contacting legislators, etc.

    Comment by seewhatsealionsstart — 10:42 am April 16, 2013 #

  10. I personally feel that children walking on a whale is as much disrespectful as walking on a beach during low tide filled with sea anemones, crabs, shellfish, etc… I always feel terrible about crushing what’s under my feet. Yet i still love to look at tidepools &I tread lightly. Children are curious, tactile, and ever learning from their environment. Parents should educate them in being kind to the earth, offering their respect while still having fun. Chances are a state angency is likely to remove the beached whale by blowing it up. in this scenario who’s more disrespectful?
    Also I would like to point out how cool it would be for a kid who loves to play at whale tail park in Alki and then get the chance to explore an actual one!! Lighten up people. If I were the whale I’d rather be enjoyed for a while than blown to smithereens immediately. But to each there own. As for it being a health hazard that’s a whole other conversation.

    Comment by Kip — 11:05 am April 16, 2013 #

  11. A dead creature should not be “enjoyed.” Especially in the state it was in. This reminded me of that video of a little girl holding and kissing a dead squirrel on the internet. Some parents are so clueless. If I had children I guarantee they would not come anywhere near that carcass.

    Comment by jerkstore — 1:47 pm April 16, 2013 #

  12. Someone was camping with children in the park last night. I heard childern’s voices in the island of woods where the road and the trail separate directly up the hill from the marine biology center.

    Time was about 10 pm.

    Comment by C Stirling — 1:53 pm April 16, 2013 #

  13. I just read that they are planning on towing the carcass out to the water tonight at high tide to let it decay naturally. They said the time depends on the rigging and tide. The park will be closed while they do it.

    Comment by bsmomma — 2:21 pm April 16, 2013 #

  14. On a side note, depending on the age of the child, some are very interested in these types of things. My daughter wants to be an animal doctor and I feel she’s old enough to handle the sight. I hope we can make it in time for her to see it. I would never let her touch though. That’s just me. I couldn’t touch any of my human relatives after they passed.

    Comment by bsmomma — 2:25 pm April 16, 2013 #

  15. We have a crew out there again today & will have an update a bit later…

    Comment by WSB — 2:57 pm April 16, 2013 #

  16. Hey WSB, it’s 2013. How about clickable high res images that are bigger than 490 pixels wide. I mean, come on…

    The pix are so small… I’d rather touch the whale in person. LOL

    Comment by Ripper — 3:23 pm April 16, 2013 #

  17. Haven’t yet found a plug-in that worked for that. Suggestions? Most neighborhood sites run tiny thumbnails. We choose to run them as large as we can inline. 522 sometimes!

    Comment by WSB — 3:58 pm April 16, 2013 #

  18. “Everyone else sucks almost as bad!” Not a great argument.

    I’ve used WordPress and they have an inbuilt system for uploading photos and auto generating thumbnails for clicking. It’s not a new problem…

    Comment by Ripper — 4:13 pm April 16, 2013 #

  19. Do you guys know the aprox high tide time for today is?

    Comment by Bsmomma — 4:38 pm April 16, 2013 #

  20. Bsmomma: 11:01pm

    Comment by christopherboffoli — 4:56 pm April 16, 2013 #

  21. Thank You!

    Comment by Bsmomma — 5:12 pm April 16, 2013 #

  22. Who pissed in your Cheerios this morning, Ripper?

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 5:14 pm April 16, 2013 #

  23. Seattle tide chart is on the WSB Weather page – I don’t know how different Burien tides are; tried to find a chart for there when this all started, had no luck.

    Comment by WSB — 5:20 pm April 16, 2013 #

  24. Re: high tide, If WDFW can’t/won’t move it, does anyone know if Crowley or Foss have donated a tug crew in the past?

    Comment by WenG — 8:05 pm April 16, 2013 #

  25. There is some kind of moving activity scheduled to happen tonight – this apparently has been announced by the Environmental Science Center there.

    Comment by WSB — 8:25 pm April 16, 2013 #

  26. Crew and boat from Global Diving & Salvage will tow off the beach on an outgoing tide tonight. Whale will be towed to a secured site in south Puget Sound for natural decomposition and collection of the skull at a later date for educational and research purposes.

    Comment by David Hutchinson — 8:46 pm April 16, 2013 #

  27. Dear WSB,

    I love you no matter how many pixels you have. I am blind to your resolution and appreciate your news!!!

    We expect high tide at about 2300 hours.

    -Betsy

    Comment by Betsy — 9:12 pm April 16, 2013 #

  28. Thanks. I’ll be posting the update soon – have received Nick’s daytime photos.

    Comment by WSB — 9:26 pm April 16, 2013 #

  29. I love the idea of you people citing laws and policies based on what you “think” and “feel” when your own efforts at somehow proving your thoughts and viewpoints as being significant fail miserably.

    Now that it is clear to the literate that it is not illegal to touch the carcass, and that it is clear to the perceptive (6yo minds among us) that the carcass is not, by definition, a “species”, we’re down to perhaps one or two who may have violated any law at all.

    The factual reality is that literally thousands of human beings (they, a true ‘species’ as defined in part by their ability to breed – something a carcass on a beach does not have) took enough individual interest to get the best sense they will likely ever know for just how big whales are.

    An overwhelming majority willingly brought their children and surely did themselves and those children considerable benefit by using natural opportunity to afford lessons you just can’t manufacture while reading “Moby Dick” or the like.

    It is rather pathetic, about so many of you, that you would think your “thoughts” and “feelings” should mean one iota of anything where it concerns the way others teach their children.

    Has anyone among you observed so much as one human interaction with that carcass which wasn’t foremostly a learning experience for either the person you observed or a child of same?

    While it makes sense that the carcass was taped-off as a precaution against its potential toxicity, this foolish talk of “respect for the dead” is akin to your showing respect for lottery numbers or other such absurdity.

    What say you save your sanctimonious statements for those situations where one’s child gets pregnant, where one’s child commits a felonious crime, or when the child of another makes your baby cry?

    Passing judgment on thousands of people who are drawn in unison to a rare learning experience just isn’t the place to waste your pointless efforts.

    Comment by Siobhan — 9:52 pm April 16, 2013 #

  30. +1 to Betsy. :-)

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 7:22 am April 17, 2013 #

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