Stab Magazine | 2016: Year Of The Dead Whale

2016: Year Of The Dead Whale

The dead Humpback that washed ashore in LA is a small part of a continuing trend.

news // Apr 26, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

A dead Humpback whale washed ashore Dockweiler State Beach in Los Angeles last night around eight. It’s not Lowers and the surf world cares a bit less. And it’s worth mentioning the stretch of beach at Dockweiler is rather unfortunate. Just a mile south of my home in Playa del Rey, which lies between the Marina del Rey harbour and the Hyperion Sewage Treatment plant – the one responsible for the massive sewage spill last September that spewed hypodermic needles, condoms and tampon applicators into the ocean and subsequently onto shore. The event resulted in an outcry, Heal the Bay got up in arms, but the truth is the water quality problem in Los Angeles is going nowhere. The population continues to increase and if you’ve ever driven three miles in 45 minutes in LA, you’re well aware of the people equals pollution equation.

ScaleWidthWyIxMjAwIl0 Whale removal

The slice, dive and carry away removal of the Lowers whale.

This whale at Dockweiler poses a problem, after the one washed up at Lowers a few months back Californians have been reminded the difficulties of whale removal. It’s something nobody really knows what to do about. Last night there were many efforts to pull the 40-foot whale back out to sea… today the whale still sits ashore. According to KTLA: “Officials are hoping to try again and get the whale removed from the shoreline today, ahead of the large crowds expected to arrive for the holiday weekend.” Luckily the access to Dockweiler is simpler than the long path down to the So Cal’s famed cobblestone point break. But Monday is the Fourth of July in the US: cue the fireworks, hotdogs, police opening beach coolers, DUI checkpoints, mindless self-indulgence and possibly the smell of rotting whale. Followed by a heavy and certain hangover Tuesday morning as the working folk forget their three day weekend and drift back into caffeine or stimulant fueled reality.

Yeah, whales die, it’s part of life and the mass beaching of whales happens on a yearly basis. And not to get all environmentally pretentious, I have no problem surfing in front of my home on the rare occasion that it breaks or fighting the constant sinus infection courtesy of the Venice Breakwater just across the boardwalk from our California offices; it’s just the reality. But the trending whale deaths in 2015/2016 is startling. On June 27th in Rye, New Hampshire a 45 foot humpback whale washed ashore. She was 18-years-old and apparently named Snow Plow. Details of the cause of death are uncertain, officials say it’s unlikely she was hit by a boat.


May Snow Plow’s soul live on in a sea full of krill.

In Europe, dying cetaceans is an ongoing issue. In January on the coast of the Dutch Island of Texel and the German islands of Wangerooge a total of 12 sperm whales washed up between the two coastlines. “These whales have quite simply made a mistake,” Thilo Maack, a marine biologist with Greenpeace, told German TV. “They didn’t pass Scotland but turned off into the North Sea. That happens sometimes.” Although upon further investigation, no one is exactly sure why the whales died, but they did find their stomachs full of car parts and plastics. Also, early in January the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme presented data of killer whales, bottlenose dolphins and striped dolphins containing a high concentration of PCB in their blubber. “A study of more than 1,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises across Europe found their blubber contained some of the planet’s highest concentrations of a man-made chemical known as PCB,” stated the report in the Independent UK. “PCBs – or polychlorinated biphenyls – were previously used to make electrical equipment, flame retardants and paints but were banned in the UK in 1981.”


Three of the 300 plus Sei Whales, which can get up to 64 feet, in Chile.

In India, mid-2015, 73 short-finned pilot whales died stranded on a beach in Tamil Nadu. In November of 2015, 337 sei whales, stranded and died off Patagonia, Chile. According to National Geographic it was “the biggest single whale stranding event known to science.” Toxic blooms and rising sea temperatures are the proposed culprit.

April, 2015, saw a spate of rare whales washing ashore in Japan, near Fukushima, which has been pouring thousands of tons of radioactive materials into the sea for about five years now. A few days prior, 160 dolphins beached themselves 50 miles from Fukushima. The necropsies exhibited ischemia or white lungs, which is linked to radiation poison from children at Chernobyl, Ukraine and survivors of the atomic bomb in Japan. “I’ve never seen this before,” claimed a baffled Japanese scientist upon the discovery.

So what does this all mean? Obviously, the ocean’s pollution is increasing; there’s an island of trash in the Pacific for fuck’s sake. We could talk sea level rise, over fishing, global warming, British Petroleum and blah, blah, blah. It’ll continue to occur. The problem supersedes the fight to combat it. For the go-getters and environmentalists out there, bravo. For the conscious yet, inactive folks, good job putting your trash in the proper receptacles. And for the hordes of masses about to take to the US coastline this Monday, have a BBQ and bury their trash, go find yourselves a nice big rock and kick it.


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