Dead whale washes up on Israeli shore after storm

The fin whale is the biggest species to swim in Mediterranean waters
The fin whale is the biggest species to swim in Mediterranean waters Ahmad GHARABLI AFP
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Ashkelon (Israel) (AFP)

The carcass of an almost 17-metre fin whale has washed up on a southern Israeli shore, an AFP photographer said Friday, in the aftermath of a storm that caused massive tar pollution.

Powerful winds and unusually high waves pummelled Israel's entire Mediterranean coastline over Tuesday and Wednesday, with tonnes of tar staining beaches from Rosh Hanikra, just south of Lebanon, to Ashkelon just north of Gaza.

The rare appearance of the dead whale, of the second-biggest mammal species in the world after the Blue Whale, was initially thought to have been connected to the tar pollution.

The tar, itself apparently released by a ship unloading oil or by old tar lifted by the storm from the seabed, killed many marine creatures.

That had sparked theories that the 16.9-metre (55-foot) male fin whale, weighing an estimated 25 tonnes, had also fallen victim to poisoning.

But Israel's Nature and Parks Authority said Friday that experts had determined that the decayed state of the whale, discovered on Thursday at the southern Nitzanim beach near Ashkelon, meant it had died some two weeks ago.

"The whale's arrival cannot be linked to the tar pollution," the authority said in a statement.

The environmental protection ministry vowed to locate the source of the pollution, saying it was on a rare scale and that the cleanup was set to be "long and difficult".

Volunteers from a network of NGOs began cleaning up the beaches along with the ministry, which allocated emergency funds to the relevant municipalities to expedite the manual cleaning.