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


2017-05-23 10:32:47

Whales wash up in Suffolk in unrelated incidents

Over the weekend a couple of whales beached in Suffolk and another dead animal was reported floating at sea.  As often happens, the press interviewed bystanders who gave their own thoughts and rumours started that the whales were a family comprising a calf, a mother and a male and that there were more out at sea.  In fact, the whales were from different species and the strandings were most likely unrelated.  There have been no substantiated reports of other whales out at sea that were in trouble.

The Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) attended the sites of the stranded whales in Suffolk on Monday, May 21st. This report from them clarifies the details.

CSIP identified the decomposed whale at Felixstowe as a likely fin whale - as the whale was still largely underwater, final identification will hopefully be confirmed when the whale is removed for disposal later today. A large gash was present on the left body wall, consistent with ship strike. It is impossible to determine whether this occurred pre- or post-mortem given the degree of decomposition. It is considered possible that the whale was brought into the area on the front of a vessel approaching the large ports at Felixstowe/Harwich, as has occurred in the past and the whale may therefore have been ship struck some distance and some time ago.


Unfortunately it was not possible to access the body of the minke whale at Orford- it had refloated on the rising tide yesterday morning and then restranded on deep tidal mud flats, which were too dangerous to try to cross (it had been secured by a rope). With regret, we had to leave the stranding location without having examined this animal - it may be possible to access the body at a later date if it becomes more accessible. The whale had reportedly been seen alive in the vicinity shortly before being found dead at the weekend and given the fresh nature of the carcass, it is likely that it live stranded.

In addition, we received reports from colleagues at the Receiver of Wreck that the third dead whale spotted floating at sea has been provisionally identified as a sperm whale. (Note from BDMLR - this is likely to be the reported male whale)

The three stranding events are considered to therefore be unrelated and this was not a minke whale mass mortality event, as was widely reported over the weekend.

Many thanks to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency team from Shingle Street, Ann Stewart, the Orford Quay Harbour Master and particularly Alison Kentuck at the Receiver of Wreck and Jo Collins from British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

The CSIP are now on route to the minke whale at Oxwich Bay in Swansea to try to carry out a field necropsy, updates will be posted later.

Images credit CSIP-ZSL - please contact CSIP for permission to use.