British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (photo: Steve Marsh)
British Divers Marine Rescue


2018-09-27 15:21:24

Beluga in the Thames

Press Statement

British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) and the Port of London Authority (PLA) are urging river users to steer clear of the beluga whale, which is currently in the Thames Estuary first spotted on 25th September 2018.

The whale’s last known position was off the shore of Gravesend in Kent. BDMLR and PLA staff are monitoring the whale which appears to be a sub adult (older juvenile but not a fully formed adult). On 26th September, BDMLR medics observed the whale swimming strongly in the Thames current. It also exhibited foraging behaviour, likely feeding, as well as surfaced and dived consistent with a healthy animal.

However, the beluga is completely out of its home range by many hundreds of miles. “While this whale is visiting, both organisations will continue to monitor and plan for possible assistance scenarios and then will work cooperatively to ensure the best outcome.” said BDMLR Director Gavin Parsons.

Beluga whales are a small whale species inhabiting the high Arctic, living around the coastlines of northern Scandinavia, Russia, Alaska and Canada. Since the 1960’s there have been 20 sightings of belugas around the UK coast, the last being two whales off Northumberland in 2015. There have been very few stranding. As adults they are pure white, but young are born grey and lose their greyness over the first seven years of life.

The animals generally live in small pods, but in summer will form massive groups around warmer river estuaries, but it is not uncommon for smaller groups and individuals to migrate great distances.

Belugas are unique among cetaceans (the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises) as they do not have fused neck vertebrae and can move their heads.

Tanya Ferry, Environment Manager for the PLA says “We thank river users for their consideration in avoiding the area, and ask them to continue to do so. We are working closely with BDMLR and are in contact with other relevant wildlife welfare organisations”.


BDMLR works closely with other partners in the Thames. To find out more, please click here.


Update 27th September 2018. 16.00hrs

Reports have been confirmed that the beluga has been sighted this afternoon, along with a porpoise, in the same stretch of the Thames as yesterday. It is swimming strongly and there are no signs of damage.




Beluga whale photos copyright Sam Lipman, BDMLR. Taken on September 26th 2018.