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Dead Malibu whale stinks up beach; nobody in charge of removal

December 7, 2012 |  7:45 am

When a dead 40-foot fin whale washed ashore in Malibu earlier this week it was still a beautiful creature: dark gray on top, a rich cream below that glistened in the surf and sun.

By Thursday … not so much.

After several days of being pounded by the surf, devoured by gulls, poked at by gawkers and probed during a necropsy, magnificence had given way to a decomposing mess of protruding bones and ghastly strips of blubber — and a full-fledged state of government paralysis.

"There isn't really a protocol for this," said Jeff Hall, marine mammal coordinator with the California Wildlife Center, a nonprofit wildlife hospital.

The 40,000-pound fin whale, whose species is endangered specie but a not-uncommon sight off the Southern California coast, washed up Monday at Little Dume, a small beach between Paradise Cove and Point Dume State Beach. The spit of sand is at the foot of a towering cliff, below Barbara Streisand's neighborhood that features massive estates of groomed lawns, swimming pools and tennis courts.

But as the whale kept sitting -- and the stench worsened -- some wondered whose job it was to clear it away.

The lifeguards stationed at the beach said they were game, but weren't sure what to do. The city of Malibu said the county would probably take care of it, but the county insisted Little Dume is a private beach, which it is not. Then local officials said the state might take care of it, but the nearest state property appeared to be nearly a mile to the southwest.

"There have been some issues with jurisdiction," said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Quvondo Johnson.

By Thursday, the carcass didn't much resemble a whale anymore. Daniel Osei, 25, of Chatsworth, pointed to a black dot on the whale's head and a long piece of flesh splashing in the waves, and speculated that they were the whale's eye and tongue, respectively.

"It's sad to see it like this," he said, after having his picture taken in front of the dead whale.

By now, officials said late Thursday, towing the carcass to sea was no longer an option. "It'll just break apart and make a big mess," said Roy Stearns, a spokesman for the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

If that's the case, remnants of the whale could be around for days.

"If you want to live here, this is what nature gives you," said Brandon Batty, 30, another visitor. "It gives you beautiful sunsets. And sometimes it gives you dead animals."

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-- Scott Gold and Matt Stevens

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