Carcass of whale washes up under Seattle ferry dock, putrid odour plagues commuters

Crew members towing the carcass of the grey whale in Elliot Bay after it was discovered under the Colman Ferry dock in Seattle, Washington, on Jan 22, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Crew members towing the carcass of the grey whale in Elliot Bay after it was discovered under the Colman Ferry dock in Seattle, Washington, on Jan 22, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A dead gray whale floated underneath a busy commuter ferry terminal in downtown Seattle, sending a putrid odour onto the dock on Thursday and diverting some passenger ferries to another slip before it was moved to a nearby pier, an official said.

Transportation officials had wanted to move the carcass away from the ferry terminal before the busy evening rush hour. "It's the smell," said Ms Susan Harris, a spokesman with Washington State Ferries. "More than anything, it's upsetting for people to see."

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would soon move the body again to a more remote pier to perform a necropsy and determine cause of death, she said.

The whale's body, discovered late on Wednesday, was estimated at between 7.6m and 10.6m long and apparently drifted in from open waters, lodging under the busy Colman Dock in Seattle. There has been no impact on ferry service, used by thousands of commuters each day to reach jobs in Seattle.

Some ferries to and from upscale Bainbridge Island were diverted to a different slip after the whale was discovered, officials said.

The gray whale gets its name from its mottled gray skin, according to local whale research group, the Orca Network.

The whales live in the Pacific Ocean, traveling from Baja to the Pacific Northwest, and generally arrive in the Washington state area in late winter or early spring, the group said.

The population is protected under the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, and because of their migration pattern along the busy West Coast, gray whales are vulnerable to collisions with boats, entanglement in fishing gear and pollution, NOAA said.

Gray whales were removed from the US List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 1994 after it was determined their once dwindling population had recovered to near its original size, NOAA said.