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Whale carcass attracting tiger sharks off Oahu's south shore

HONOLULU (KHON2) - A rotting adult sperm whale carcass is now on the reef off Sand Island.
     
Officials plan to reassess the situation on Saturday morning to determine if they'll tow it out to sea or remove it from the beach.
     
In the meantime they want the public to stay away, and for good reason.

Tiger sharks have been feasting off the carcass.

Members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society went looking for it on Friday morning, and found it after two hours of searching.

"And to see one so close -- we were right next to it, we could touch it. The body itself is in tact. It's missing part of its fluke. We could see the eye, the mouth, thh jaw, the cheek. The thing that I think that was exciting for us -- there were two gigantic tiger sharks. We were in a 15 foot vessel, and the tiger shark was bigger. The first one was easily bigger than our vessel," said Polynesian Voyaging Society volunteer Cynthia McArthur.

The carcass was spotted on Thursday off Kewalo. The current carried it west, and left it stuck on the reef off Sand Island State Park.

"I would professionally advise people not to swim at this beach because there have been tiger sharks seen on the carcass today and yesterday there were as many as 15 to 20 tiger sharks on the carcass at one time," NOAA stranding coordinator David Schofield said.

He says even though NOAA Fisheries is on furlough because of the government shutdown, the workers are activated for emergencies like this one.

Scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa were also at the scene.

"In this case the whale is really decomposed, maybe a couple weeks now. So the scientific viability is probably low," Schofield said. "In the morning we're going to have to see where the whale carcass is and what we have as far as tides and accessibility. If it's on the beach it's a land removal, land extraction. If it's in the water and a place where we can work with it, given the right tides when we get the report then we'll try to tow it offshore," Schofield said.

The State Department of Land and Natural Resources is in charge of Sand Island State Park. A spokesperson says the area near the carcass is closed, and they've put up signs telling people that.


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