Sharp Park whales to receive beach burial

Two whales that turned up dead on a Pacifica beach in recent weeks will be buried there at the request of the city, according to police.

Both whales beached on Sharp Park Beach. A 48-foot sperm whale was discovered on April 14 near Mori Point and a 42-foot adult female humpback was found on May 5.

UPDATE 10:50 p.m. Burial underway for two whales on Sharp Park Beach.

Researchers conducted necropsies on both whales but were unable to determine their specific cause of death, though injuries from blunt force trauma indicated the humpback might have died from a ship strike.

The section of beach where the whales were found is under San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department jurisdiction. Recreation and Parks officials had decided to allow the whales to decompose, according to Pacifica police.

But Pacifica city officials asked the Recreation and Parks Department to consider burying the whales because of the odors coming from the carcasses.

The whales will be buried on the beach above the high tide line, Recreation and Parks spokeswoman Sarah Ballard said today. Details on how they will be buried and when are still being worked out, she said.

The Marin Headlands-based Marine Mammal Center assisted in the necropsy for the two whales. The center has responded to 17 beached sperm whales and 21 beached humpbacks in its 40-year history.

Marine Mammal Center spokeswoman Laura Sherr said today that while generally whale carcasses are left to decompose on beaches, that usually happens on more remote beaches where it’s easier to let nature take its course.

But in the case where the landowner wants to get rid of them, the center has no objections, Sherr said. Center researchers finished studying the two whales within a week of their discovery.