Towing dead dolphin was best solution on a busy beach weekend, officials said

A dead dolphin is towed across a beach in Ventura on Sunday.
(Justin Avila / KTLA-TV Channel 5)

What is the best way to remove a dead dolphin from a crowded beach on Fourth of July weekend?

Sunbathers and families in Ventura pondered this on Sunday as they watched a white California State Parks truck tow a carcass unceremoniously by its tail across the sand to a remote location.

“There’s four park rangers, and they couldn’t pick up the dead dolphin. They have to tie it and drag it,” said Justin Avila, who captured the scene on video and provided it to KTLA-TV Channel 5.

That, Avila said, was disturbing for him and his children to watch. “You’d think there’d be a better way than that,” he said.


The decision on how to remove the dead dolphin came down to a matter of efficiency and practicality, state park and harbor patrol officials said. Putting the carcass in the truck would have required officials to decontaminate the vehicle, taking it out of service for other emergencies such as medical or law enforcement calls.

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“The efficient removal of this dolphin was our best attempt to deal with a difficult situation,” Ventura Harbor Patrol Harbormaster John Higgins told KTLA.

The other option, he said, would have been to leave the carcass in place over the weekend — possibly longer — which would’ve been a health hazard in its natural decomposing state, not to mention a public nuisance. Taking it out to sea did not make sense, because it would have likely washed again on shore.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the lead agency responsible for dead marine life, usually defers to local agencies to remove dolphins, Higgins said in a statement. “There is nobody to call that will even come to remove the dolphins or expired marine life.”

Higgins said Harbor Patrol will review its towing protocol to see how the agency could handle future incidents in a way less discomforting to some members of the public.

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