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Washed-up whale poses challenge in Rockport

Aquarium staff say it’s from Hub

Just when the state’s seaside communities thought they had avoided having to dispose of a dead finback whale, it seems the picturesque town of Rockport has won the “reverse lottery.” The deteriorating carcass, which spent most of October drifting around Boston Harbor, has washed up on Rockport’s shore.

Town workers have gone to the site of the whale’s current resting place, just north of Pebble Beach off Penzance Road, to assess the rocky conditions in the area and determine the best way to bury the carcass.

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It is not the first dead whale to wash up in town.

“We always seem to be the fortunate ones,” said Joe Parisi, public works director, adding that his workers had recently buried a walrus and had dealt with a whale before. “One day it’s out floating; the next thing you know it’s in your backyard.”

The 50-foot finback was confirmed by the New England Aquarium to be the same one that has been making its way around Massachusetts waters.

“The staff came up to take a quick look, but they didn’t do anything further,” said aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse. “It’s beaten up enough, and the tissue is deteriorated, so the value to the aquarium [for necropsy] is very low.”

Throughout the whale’s travels, the aquarium had taken the role of “whale medical examiner.” It wanted to perform a necropsy when the whale first appeared in Boston Harbor earlier this month, LaCasse said. But the finback floated off and kept drifting to shores that were not accessible enough for biologists to perform the exam.

Rockport officials hope to bury the carcass, but since the area is full of pebbles and cobblestones, it might be difficult, Parisi said.

“We had this experience before, so it doesn’t become a difficult challenge other than where it’s located and the size,” said Parisi. “We’ll figure out how to properly dispose of it.”

Boston-area officials had called the whale’s appearance on a shore a “reverse lottery” earlier this month, because the person or department who owns the land is then responsible for disposal of the carcass.

The state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation had estimated the cost of the whale’s removal to be about $30,000, when it floated to Georges Island last week. Efforts to remove the whale must also be approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, because finbacks are an endangered species.

Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at sarah.mattero@globe.com.
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