Dead whale stuck under pier

A dead whale wedged beneath a pier was spotted by swimmers Thursday, but no government agency raced to remove the foul-smelling mammal.

The lifeless whale was seen bobbing beneath Pier 27, on the north side of the San Francisco’s waterfront.

“Protecting marine life is an important mission — but with dead whales it’s case by case,” U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Dan Dewell said. “[National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] is the lead regulatory agency for what can and can’t be done with a dead whale.”

NOAA spokesman Jim Milbury said responsibility for removing a dead whale depends on where it washes up.

“It’s usually the responsibility of the landowner,” he said.

Pier 27 is owned by the Port of San Francisco, which plans today to investigate options for removing the late mammal, according to spokeswoman Renée Dunn.

“There’s definitely a stench in the air — it’s probably been there at least for a couple of tide cycles,” Dunn said. “This isn’t a situation that happens every day.”

Two gray whales were spotted last month just offshore from Crissy Field.

Whales are currently migrating north and are often spotted in the Bay at this time of year, according to Oceanic Society of San Francisco naturalist Stan Minasian, who added that a dead whale was found in the Bay last year, and two the year before.

“One of the theories is that these were once land animals, so when they feel they’re getting ill they’ll sometimes instinctively go toward land to die,” Minasian said.

Whales are often killed after being struck by ships, Ocean Conservation Research scientist Michael Stocker said.

“They have no reasons to be adapted to identify large, low-frequency things, such as ships,” he said.

Jim Oswald, a spokesman for the San Francisco-based nonprofit Marine Mammal Center, said the carcass might be useful for research if it died recently.

“If they can dislodge it they might tow it somewhere to a safe area on shore,” Oswald said. “We might go look at it and possibly take some skin or blubber samples.”

jupton@examiner.com

Examiner Staff Writer Brent Begin contributed to this report.

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