A dead whale has washed ashore in South Africa near a beach club and local authorities have warned people not to eat the meat due health concerns.
Local residents spotted the whale floating in the sea near Schulphoek, Overstrand Municipality—located near Cape Town—on Wednesday. It subsequently washed up on some rocks, the municipality said in a Facebook post that day.
Authorities identified the animal as a Bryde’s whale—a species found in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate waters around the world, including the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans.
These whales grow to around 40-55 feet in length and can weigh up to about 90,000 pounds, figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries show.
After the whale washed up on the rocks, a number of people from the local community—including adults and children—arrived at the scene. Photos show some harvesting bits of meat from the carcass.
Overstrand Deputy Mayor Lindile Ntsabo warned members of the public not to eat the meat because it could make people sick.
“Warning: do not eat whale meat,” the municipality said in its Facebook post.
The whale meat could pose a health risk, not least because it is not yet known how the creature died, Ntsabo said.
In addition, the flesh and blubber of the whale appear to be rotten, meaning people could get food poisoning if they eat it, he said.
Researchers from the Overberg Stranding Network told South African media outlet Sunday Times Thursday that it could not immediately confirm the whale’s cause of death.
The scientists also said there was not much left of the creature’s body to take samples from.
Bryde’s whales are members of the baleen whale family, which comprises around 15 different species. These include blue, bowhead, right, humpback, minke and gray whales.
Instead of teeth, these whales have baleen plates in their mouths—made of keratin—that they use to sieve small creatures from the seawater. Keratin is a type of protein that is also found in human fingernails and hair.
The baleen plates enable the whales to filter, sift, sieve or trap their prey, which can include creatures such as krill, plankton and small fish.
Bryde’s whales are vulnerable to a number of threats, including vessel strikes, ocean noise pollution and even whaling in some parts of Asia.
Newsweek has contacted the Overstrand Municipality for comment via email.
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