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Concern over pod of sperm whales stranded off East Yorkshire coast

Connor Parker
·3-min read
One of group of ten sperm whales which have been beached on a stretch of coastline between the villages of Tunstall and Withernsea in East Yorkshire.
One of a group of 10 sperm whales which have been beached on a stretch of coastline between the villages of Tunstall and Withernsea in East Yorkshire. (PA)

There are grave concerns for a pod of 10 sperm whales stranded in the East Yorkshire with two ending up beached off the coast.

British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said four of the group in difficulty near Withernsea have been confirmed to be still alive but all are believed to be in a poor nutritional condition.

Sperm whales are among the largest living creatures on the planet and are extremely difficult to move when washed up on shore.

Males can reach around 20 metres long and weigh up to 80 tonnes.

Due to their size and often weakened state upon being beached, they often do not survive long enough to return back to the ocean.

One of the whales washed up on the beach. (PA)
One of the whales washed up on the beach. (PA)

The BDMLR, which was called out at 8.30am on Christmas Eve, said the North Sea is a difficult environment for sperm whales as the shallow water has few of the deep water squids they usually feed on, and they rarely survive beach strandings due to their size.

The organisation said it was not currently attempting any rescue due to poor weather and rough sea conditions.

Police have warned the public to stay away.

Watch: Whales washed up on East Yorkshire beach

A BDMLR spokeswoman said: “The number of whales currently stranded is 10. They are in shallow water and four have been confirmed still alive.

“We believe it to be a pod of juvenile males, all in very poor nutritional condition.

“Due to the current weather conditions and rough seas, our team will remain on land observing from a safe distance.

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One of the group of ten sperm whales. (PA)
One of the group of 10 sperm whales. (PA)

The alarm was raised with the coastguard after members of the public said they believed seven whales were stranded close to the beach at Waxholme.

People who filmed the flailing animals expressed their concern on social media.

The BDMLR said sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales and are usually found in deep offshore waters.

They can dive up to 2,000 metres in search of food, which is mostly large or medium-sized squid which is not abundant in the North Sea.

The coast guard is trying to assist the pod (PA)
The coast guard is trying to assist the pod. (PA)

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A spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “Just before 8.30am today HM Coastguard received a 999 call from a member of the public with a report of seeing a number of whales on the shoreline at Withernsea beach.

“Coastguard rescue teams from Withernsea, Hornsea and Easington have been sent.

Sperm whales have been stranded off the East Yorkshire coast. (PA)
Sperm whales have been stranded off the East Yorkshire coast. (PA)

“The relevant authorities have been informed including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Receiver of Wreck, the local authority and the British Divers Marine Life Rescue who are also on the scene to assess the situation.

“Members of the public are asked to stay away from the scene to allow the authorities to work safely.”

Humberside Police Chief Superintendent Darren Downs said: “I understand the public interest in the incident but I would urge people to stay away from the area to allow the teams from HM Coastguard to manage what is an extremely distressing scene.

“I would also remind people that there is a risk to themselves and others as crowds gather to witness the scene. The COVID-19 pandemic remains a high risk to public health, people should not gather in groups as there is a danger of transmission amongst the crowds.

“Please stay away from the area and support your emergency services in dealing with the situation throughout the day.”

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