Suffering of fin whale prompts call for animal euthanasia protocols

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THE DEATH of a fin whale in Baltimore harbour yesterday after being stranded there for three days has highlighted the need for the development of protocols to deal with such incidents, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

Dr Simon Berrow of the group confirmed that the whale, estimated at up to 15m (50ft) long, died yesterday at about 11am after it stopped threshing about in a corner of the harbour near the pier.

Dr Berrow said he had been in discussions with the Defence Forces at the time of the whale’s death.

He said both the Army and the Naval Service were willing to attempt to euthanise the animal, which had been ailing since injuring itself on rocks in the harbour on Tuesday.

Dr Berrow pointed out that while the Defence Forces were willing to assist in putting down the distressed animal, the group had no authority to commission or request them to do so, and the case highlighted the need for the development of protocols in this regard.

“We’ve spoken to the Wildlife Service of the Department of Heritage and they’ve indicated a willingness to meet with ourselves and the Defence Forces to try and develop some protocols to deal with such incidents because they will arise again when whales get stranded,” he said.

Dr Berrow said he was not aware of any plans to carry out a postmortem on the whale as logistically it would be a difficult exercise and the veterinary experience necessary to carry out an autopsy was not readily available in Ireland.

A Cork County Council spokesman confirmed the local authority had begun preparing a plan to remove the whale by towing it away from Baltimore harbour up the river Ilen estuary to Oldcourt where it is expected it will be examined and its weight assessed.

According to the spokesman, the council will then seek to have the remains of the animal transported to a rendering facility for disposal in keeping with animal health regulations for the disposal of dead animals. This is expected to be completed within days.

The plight of the stranded whale had attracted thousands of visitors to Baltimore over the past three days, and even prompted a poem on the tragic event, Poor Brother Whale, by Caroline Hurley, published on the poetry site Poetry 24.

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