Washington state waterfront landowners get an unusual request

Are you a waterfront owner who does not mind dead whales on your property? There’s a special offer for you in Washington state.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is asking waterfront homeowners to allow their land for use for the decomposition of dead gray whales.

Mario Rivera and Stefanie Worwag of Port Townsend, Washington, have already said yes to the offer, which enables officials to observe the natural processes of the marine environment. Skeletons left behind after decomposition are used for educational purposes, NOAA said.

About 30 gray whales have stranded in Washington so far this year, the most in about two decades, according to NOAA.

The whales have mostly been showing up near inland waters in the Puget Sound and Salish Sea, decreasing the amount of space the mammals have to decompose naturally, officials said.

NOAA said it works closely with local, state, and other federal agencies to identify suitable sites for decomposition, but is seeking additional options following a spike in the number of whales found dead. Rivera and Worwag are volunteers for the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, which responds to stranded marine mammals.

“That’s the primary reason we did it,” Rivera told NOAA. “How many opportunities do you get to watch something like this happen right out in front of you?”

It’s unclear how long the whale takes to decompose — some weigh as much as 40 tons.

Now NOAA Fisheries is seeking other waterfront landowners to volunteer their properties for the decomposition experiment, according to a news release from the agency.

On the West Coast, more than 70 gray whales have become stranded this year, causing NOAA to declare an unusual mortality event. An investigation into their deaths is ongoing.

Many of the whales have appeared malnourished, which could suggest they may not have consumed enough food during their last summer feeding season in the Arctic, according to NOAA.