Rare Sowerby’s beaked whale washes up on beach
PUBLISHED: 08:10 23 August 2020 | UPDATED: 08:35 23 August 2020
A rare Sowerby’s beaked whale has died after washing up on a Waveney beach.
The stranding was reported on Lowestoft’s North Beach on Saturday morning, days after a pair of the rarely sighted whales were reported around the Norfolk coast.
Rob Deaville, of the Zoological Society of London’s UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP), announced the stranding on Twitter.
He said: “Stranded Sowerby’s beaked whale reported in Lowestoft this morning.
“One of a pair sighted close to shore last week.
“Many thanks to colleagues from British Divers Marine Life Rescue and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.”
Along with a colleague from the Defra-funded CSIP, Mr Deaville is now set to carry out an autopsy on the whale on Saturday evening.
He said: “Myself and a colleague are travelling to Lowestoft where we will work through the evening to learn what we can and see if we can establish some sort of cause of death.
“There is no indication of what caused it at this stage, but we do know it was only around 3.8 metres long so it seems to be a juvenile.
“There has been a fair bit of activity around the country over the last few weeks and it is not entirely clear why.
“We get around 1,000 standings each year and of those, around five or so are Sowerby’s beaked whales.
“They are normally found in deep water so the North Sea is an abnormal habitat for them.
“It could be they have come south and become more at risk in shallower water, but we will find out more from the autopsy.”
On Thursday afternoon, a family fishing from a boat off Brancaster reported seeing what they believed to be Sowerby’s beaked whales, before reports the following day that a pair of whales had been seen off Blakeney.
The species, which originates from the North Atlantic and the Baltic Seas, is rarely sighted, especially in the North Sea, with the oldest recorded sighting in Norfolk dating back to 1952.
The whales, which grow to a maximum of around 18ft for males and 16.5ft for females, have a long, slender beak, similar in appearance to dolphins, and are usually seen with at least one other. As deep divers, Sowerby’s beaked whales feed primarily on squid and small fish.
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