Basking shark washes ashore in Rhode Island - CBS 5 - KPHO

Basking shark washes ashore in Rhode Island

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WESTERLY, RI (WFSB) -

People visiting Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, RI, saw something they least expected Sunday.

A 28 1/2-foot long male basking shark washed up onto shore.

According to the Associated Press, a homeowner in the Misquamicut Beach area made the shocking discovery and reported it to police.

"Just to see that big thing come out of this ocean, here, in Misquamicut, is unbelievable," said Pat Williams of Mystic.

Officials from Mystic Aquarium said staff members were sent to the beach to assist in investigating how the shark died.

How it died is still a mystery, but more importantly, residents want to know how they plan to get the two-ton shark off their beach.

Officials are trying to determine if this section of Misquamicut belongs to the state or the town of Westerly.

If it's the state's, this shark will be buried at sea or the beach. If it's the town's, it might just stay there and wait for mother nature to sort it out on her own.

Officials stressed that basking sharks are just giant fish that feed on nothing but plankton and are common in the New England area.

Officials from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center told Eyewitness News when big creatures of the sea die, they usually sink to the bottom.

However, researchers, who were trying to determine how the whale died, sliced the animal open and performed an autopsy. 

Officials said they know the animal is old, but the final results are pending.

For now, folks closest to the carcass told Eyewitness News they are content. Blessed with the high tides and the shark being so close to shore, the smell was not overpowering on Monday.

However as the days go on, officials said the shark will rot and the smell will keep people away, right when the beach season kicks into gear.

"They were hoping the tide would take it out, but it doesn't look that way to me," said Barney Wazer of Westerly, RI. "They might have to get a big boat in here, put a rope around the tail and drag him out."

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