Northern Ireland

Donegal whale burial delayed over residents' concerns

Scientists examine the remains of the whales on Rutland Island
Image caption Scientists examine the remains of the whales on Rutland Island

The removal of 33 pilot whales who died off the coast of County Donegal has been delayed amid concerns raised by residents.

Donegal County Council had hoped to bury the whales on the beach of Rutland Island, where they washed up on Saturday.

However, some people in Burtonpoint on the mainland voiced fears that the smell of the decomposing mammals could affect business.

The council is to meet residents in Dungloe on Friday to discuss what happens next.

Belfast-based journalist Iain Webster, who owns a fisherman's cottage on the island, said he understood people's concerns "as the area is so pristine and unpolluted".

"Personally, I feel the whales are organic and will go back to nature, so I wouldn't have a big problem with it, as long as the site is carefully chosen so as not to contaminate the natural water springs on the island," he said.

"However, I can see how some people feel they should be taken away to a disposal site.

"I suppose they should be treated the same way as fallen animals are on farms."

Although the island has electricity, there is no running water.


Seamus Boyle, who runs the Arranmore Fast Ferry, said some people feared burying the whales in the sand could contaminate natural spring water on the sandy island.

"I don't know if it's a valid objection, but when they did the same thing in Jersey, leaking gas built up and they exploded.

"It was a popular beach and it had to be closed for a year.

"I suggested taking them 20 miles out to sea, but they say that might be a contamination threat to other animals."

He had been watching the whales for several days before they beached.

"They were really graceful swimming about, but on Saturday morning one of my crew members told me he'd seen them on the beach - it was really sad."

The council had obtained a license which allowed the whales to be buried on the beach, but it decided to consult with residents before taking any further action.

Since the weekend, environmentalists have been trying to establish how the whales beached on the island.

It's thought they were the same group spotted in the Outer Hebrides at the end of October.

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