Ship strike kills two whales in Norfolk waters

28 November 2013

Two dead minke whales have been found on Norfolk beaches in the past week.

The whales were discovered washed up on Sea Palling and Cromer East beaches. It is thought they had been hit by a ship.

More humpback whales have also been spotted in the same area, raising concern they may also be hit by ships.

Locals noted large shoals of herring off the coast, which means the whales were probably following the fish, which brought them in too close to the fishing vessels.

Museum cetacean strandings officer Molly Clery said ‘I can’t remember the last time I saw a ship strike on a big whale, let alone two so close together.'

Cause of death

The Museum collects records of all whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans) that get stranded on UK coastlines. Smaller cetaceans, such as porpoises and dolphins, are regularly killed by ships as they are more likely to come closer to shore to feed.

The first minke whale discovered last week was too decomposed for a viable postmortem, but large cuts to its back, and a severed jaw showed it likely died from a ship strike.

The second whale, discovered on Monday, was taken by scientists from the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) for a postmortem. It had been eating well, with a belly full of fish, but had internal damage and broken bones.

Reporting strandings

A minke whale also washed up last week on a County Londonderry beach, the third in three months to be found dead on the Northern Irish coast.

Fourteen minke whales have been reported dead on UK coasts this year. Around 400-800 cetaceans are reported annually to the CSIP and the Museum.

This year marks one hundred years that the Museum has been collecting data, which provides detailed insight into the lives and deaths of UK whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Minke whale populations are thought to be increasing in the North Atlantic, but both Norway and Iceland hunt a certain number every year.

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I've found a stranded whale - what should I do? 

If you find a living whale, dolphin or porpoise please report it to the RSPCA, SSPCA and British Divers Marine Life Rescue.  

Humpback whale How do I report a stranding?

If you find a dead whale, dolphin or porpoise on the English or Welsh coastline please report it to the local coast guard and the Museum's strandings team.

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