Whale washed up on Norfolk beach may have been killed by a ship strike
- Credit: Ian Burt
Scientists have taken samples from the 40ft fin whale, which washed up between Burnham Overy Staithe and Holkham on Thursday.
Today north Norfolk naturalist and cetacean recorder Carl Chapman said the creature may have been injured in a collision with a vessel.
'From video footage available before the animal was moved on today's high tide a wound on the left flank was visible indicating a ship strike,' he said.
'Also the central spine looked somewhat twisted. The animal also looked under nourished with skeletal features showing in the tail stock and dorsal area. Hopefully details concerning the exact cause of death will be unearthed and released in due course. The body will be removed/buried in the next few days.'
Yesterday morning, workers from the Holkham Estate cordoned off the area around the whale and warned the public against getting too close to the whale.
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Experts from the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme have taken samples from the creature as part of their ongoing research into increasing numbers of whale deaths and strandings.
The incident comes 10 months after six sperm whales were washed up and stranded around The Wash, at locations including Hunstanton, Skegness, and Wainfleet.
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Danny Groves, of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said: 'It is rare to see fin whales in the sea off Norfolk.
'You are more likely to see them off the coast of Western Scotland or Ireland.
'If this whale did wash up dead then it will be difficult to ascertain what may have killed it due to time factors.
'Ideally, a necropsy would need to be carried out as close to the time of death as possible.
'Whales face a number of threats each and every day – mostly man-made – such as excessive underwater noise pollution, entanglement in fishing nets or from vessels hitting them.
'This whale may also have become disorientated after getting lost and then found food hard to come by – or it may have been sick.'
A spokesman for the Holkham Estate said plans were in place to remove the carcass, but it will remain on the beach until the scientists have completed their work.