Southern California

Lifeguards Tow Dead Whale Away From Shore in Newport Beach

The whale, known as Scarlet, has been spotted up and down the West Coast

Lifeguards towed a deceased humpback whale Thursday out to sea in an effort to keep the bloated carcass away from the Newport Beach coast.

The 55-foot whale was first spotted by whale watching boats off Newport Beach pier around 3 p.m. Thursday. Using a rescue boat and rope, lifeguards towed it about five miles out to sea to prevent it from attracting other fish.

"We don't want it to attract any big fish, so we will tow it as far as possible away from the swimmers," Marine Safety Capt. Skeeter Leeper told the Orange County Register.

The carcass also produces an unpleasant odor.

Late Friday morning, the whale was spotted roughly 10 miles south of Newport Beach, about 3 miles off the coast. 

It was not immediately clear when the whale died, but it appears to have been decomposing for several weeks, according to lifeguards. 

Photographer Mark Girardeau said the whale is known as Scarlet, the same whale seen inside LA Harbor about a week earlier. Scarlet also has been spotted in the Santa Barbara Channel and as far north as Oregon, according to Happy Whale, a marine research group that tracks whales.

In August 2016, she was entangled in rope, but did not appear to be entangled during a sighting last fall off Newport Beach. Girardeau also captured drone video of the whale in December off the Southern California coast.

"You can see the whale from the beach, it's huge," Girardeau told the Register. "It's just really sad to see a dead whale. I just hope it's from natural causes. I just hope this doesn't happen more and this isn't something we'll be seeing more of."

Wind direction will determine what happens next with the carcass. Lifeguards in nearby coastal communities will be notified about the whale.

The same problem occurred in July at Dockweiler Beach when a whale dubbed Wally repeatedly washed ashore before eventually ending up in San Diego. At a beach south of San Clemente in April 2016, a rotting carcass washed up at a location that was difficult to reach, so it had to be cut into pieces and removed.

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