Whales found dead on Norfolk beaches probably killed by ship strikes

A minke whale washed up on the beach just north of Sea Palling.Picture: James Bass

A minke whale washed up on the beach just north of Sea Palling.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

Two whales that washed up on the Norfolk coast probably died after being hit by ships, a post-mortem has revealed.

A whale washed up on Cromer beach on Friday, November 22. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

A whale washed up on Cromer beach on Friday, November 22. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A small female minke whale was found at Sea Palling on Monday morning, just four days after a larger female minke washed up at Cromer.

It was initially thought the Sea Palling whale may have died after becoming trapped in shallower waters. But experts at the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) based at London's Zoological Society carried out a post-mortem yesterday and found evidence it may have been hit by a vessel before dying.

Project manager Rob Deaville, who sent a team to Norfolk to carry out the examination, said evidence of haemorrhaging and possible damage to the spine was consistent with injuries caused by a ship strike.

Tests showed the 5.4-metre long whale was in a good condition and was well-fed, backing up what Norfolk whale recorder Carl Chapman told the EDP earlier this week.

A post-mortem was not carried out on the whale found at Cromer east beach on Friday because the body was too decomposed, but CSIP scientists said physical marks and damage was again consistent with a ship strike.

Mr Deaville said two ship strikes in such a short space of time was fairly unusual.


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The Natural History Museum said there have been 14 minke whales reported as stranded in the UK this year.

Each year an average of 400 to 800 whales, basking sharks, seals, turtles, dolphins and porpoises are stranded along the UK's coastline. Last year there were about 600.

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CSIP said ship-strike is a major cause of mortality in large cetaceans around the world, but relatively few cases have been recorded in UK stranded large cetaceans to date.

nAt the end of October, the first humpback whale sighted off Norfolk was recorded at Hemsby. The animal, dubbed Scroby Dick, has been seen numerous times since both from the shore and by fisherman out at sea.

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