Jim Van Wart/Telegraph-Journal The dead whale lies washed up on rocks at Pocologan. The whale's mouth is bloated with air, causing the dome-shaped formation at the left of the photo.

Dead whale washes up-on rocks near Pocologan

September 06/03

    Remi Ste. Marie thought he saw an oveturned boat floating off the Charlotte coast on Friday afternoon.
   Closer examination showed it to be a dead whale. By Saturday morning, it came ashore with the tide onto the rocky shore arching inland from McCarthy's Point to Red Head - just west of Pocologan.
   What looked like a man on the boat turned out to be the whale's tail fin going up and down with the swell.
   Mr. Ste. Marie, who works for Cooke Aquaculture, called the Canadian Coast Guard on Friday and Saturday, but the rotting whale remained stuck on the rocks at suppertime on Labour Day Monday.
   Mr. Ste. Marie said Monday that the Coast Guard and Department of Fisheries and Oceans believe it might fall to the local municipal authority or the provincial government to remove the carcass.
   However, the crew at the aquaculture site saw neither federal nor provincial officials over the long weekend.
   Mr. Ste. Marie returned to the site on Monday afternoon. A reporter caught him as he was about to load a skiff with cans of gasoline to the crew on the scows at the Red Head cage site.
   On Friday, Mr. Ste. Marie delivered a load of salmon feed to the Red Head cage site.
   "So I'm powering my way over on a scow, and I was just powering my way out of the bay, and I saw this big brown thing," Mr. Ste. Marie said Monday.
   He saw the thing he mistook for an upside down boat at about 2 p.m., on the Grand Manan side of Pocologan Island. "He drifted from probably who knows where? Lepreau?" Mr. Ste. Marie said.
   He said the shipping lane for marine traffic in and out of Saint John lies several kilometres off where he saw the whale.
   He called the Fundy Coast Guard, then proceeded with his business.
   On his way to to Boyne's Cove at about 4:45 p.m., he saw the whale again, this time beached on the southeast side of Pocologan Island, so he called the Coast Guard again.
   Heading back to shore at 8:30 p.m., he saw the whale again, 'this time caught on ledges to the northeast or Pocologan side of the island. By now he worried that the whale would drift to the cage site where it could foul gear and, possibly, carry diseases to the salmon.
   Mr. Ste. Marie said the Coast Guard wanted to know if the whale had fishing gear attached to it.
   He saw seaweed that could indicate ropes or other gear, and is not certain he did not see a buoy, but did not want to get closer for fear of fouling the propellor of his own craft, and of carrying disease to the aquaculture site.
   By Saturday morning, the tide brought the whale ashore where Mr. Ste. Marie believes the rocks will hold it fast unless a crew moves it.
   "Saturday, there were people coming left and right," Mr. Ste. Marie said.
   People came by foot and four-wheeler down pathways from the main road to see the whale beached in front of residences by the shore.
   By Monday the bloated head had shrunk noticeably, and seagulls and other birds were having a feast.
   The aquaculture crew do not know what type of whale it is.
   "My best guess is a minke," Mr. Ste. Marie said. "You could narrow it down to a minke or a right, but I would guess a minke."

Story Update:
Island to get carcass

September 07/03

   A dead finback whale that washed on to the rocky shores at Pocologan has become a big, fat pain for fish farmers and nearby residents who want to get rid of the carcass.
   The whale was discovered Friday afternoon by a salmon cage worker who reported it to the Coast Guard. The rotting whale remained stuck , on the rocks where it became a curiosity for locals, a potential danger for salmon farmers and a buffet for gulls.
   "Nobody seems to want to take the bull by the horns," said Rick Doucet, the Charlotte MLA who inherited the whale of a problem.
   He said he got a call about the whale on Saturday, while he was at the Rolling Stones concert in Moncton.
   He contacted government departments at the federal and provincial levels through Tuesday morning and into the afternoon.
   "Everything's at a snail's pace," said Mr. Doucet, who said he wants to drag the whale to a deserted island.
   "Nobody wants to take ownership of it," Mr. Doucet said Tuesday morning.
   By mid-afternoon, the provincial Department of Natural Resources had agreed to pay a contractor to haul the whale off the Pocologan shore to a nearby island.
   The whale is expected to be carted away today.
   Jerry Conway, the marine mammal co-ordinator with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Dartmouth, said if the whale had been an endangered North Atlantic right whale, researchers would want to take the animal apart to learn about how it died.
   Right whales are traditionally found in the Bay of Fundy in September. There are only 300 to 350 North Atlantic right whales in the world.
   But since the whale is a more common finback, it becomes the responsibility of local governments to remove it, Mr. Conway said.
   The best, but most costly, option is to drag the carcass out to sea, he said.
   "In this case, where it's in the Bay of Fundy, it's going to be a bit difficult and expensive," Mr. Conway said. He's also heard of cases where dead whales are hauled onto a beach and buried.
   Department of Natural Resources spokesman Brent Roy said the whale will be secured on an uninhabited island.