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

News

2012-08-19 21:08:33

Fin Whale Cornish stranding - full report

At 16.45hrs on Monday 13th August, the Coastguard contacted the head office of British Divers Marine Life Rescue to report a live stranding of a whale at Carlyon Bay near St Austell, Cornwall.

A full report on the stranding can be downloaded here.

Dave Jarvis, one of the charity’s trustees and BDMLR’s Coordinator for Cornwall, alerted volunteer medics and veterinary consultants  who all made their way to the location.

The whale was identified as a female Whale measuring approximately 65feet (20 metres) long and had sustained injuries to its head (original estimates of a much smaller whale were incorrect). Locals reported that it had already stranded earlier, so the prognosis was not good and the decision was taken by the attending vets that it would be more humane to euthanize the animal rather than let it suffer a slow and lingering death. However, the whale died naturally and this was not necessary.  News reports that it had been euthanased by BDMLR were prematurely and incorrect (see below).

Coastguard and police cordoned off the beach as a massive crowd gathered to view the animal.  As the tide was dropping, the whale was being carried back by the surf down the beach, so the Coastguard attached a rope to it to stop it from floating away.

Faye Archell, another BDMLR trustee living in Cornwall who attended the stranding, reported before the animal died “It is incredibly under nourished and has a very high breathing rate which suggests it is very sick and distressed."

The whale, stranded on an outgoing tide, was also injured around one eye and there were reports of a gash on its underside.

She said: "It would be wrong for us to put a sick animal back into the sea. We are frustrated about it but we cannot help it."

In the end, the whale died without being put to sleep but it was not possible for the body to be secured to anything on the beach, so it may move with the tide.  It is hoped that it can be recovered tomorrow for post-mortem and the public have been reminded that it is an offence to take any part of a whale without the appropriate licence.

The Fin Whale is the second largest animal ever to have lived and can grow to 75-85 feet or 22-26 metres, wiegh up to 74 tonnes and live for up to 90 years.  An endangered species, it feeds on krill, small schooling fish and squid and is often found in social groups of 2-7 animals.  Able to swim at speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour it is known as the greyhound of the sea and little is known about its migration patterns.

Note 23.29hrs: Links to the BBC news item on their website were removed by the charity and the BBC was asked to amend their story so that it is factually correct both in content and implication.  BDMLR never administers euthanasia themselves and the decision to do this is always a clinical one made by a veterinary surgeon.  This would only be undertaken by them in the interests of the animal.  In this instance, the whale died naturally but the BBC originally posted an incorrect story saying that we euthanased the whale and this has led to some malicious comments on Twitter. This 'tweeter' has been reported.

Note 08.04 14/08/2010: The BBC have amended their story overnight and this can now be seen here.

Stephen Marsh
BDMLR Operations Manager