Investigation into death of rare whale
Wednesday 5 October 2011
The death of a sei whale on the East Yorkshire coast is being investigated by scientists from ZSL.
The 32ft (9.8m) juvenile female whale washed up on salt marshes near Skeffling in the Humber estuary and is thought to be one that was seen to live strand and die in the area on Friday 23 September.
A team from ZSL carried out a post-mortem examination on the whale as part of the Defra funded collaborative UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP).
Preliminary findings suggest that the whale had not fed recently and consequently may have been dehydrated.
These mysterious whales are classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and are very rarely seen in the North Sea. This is only the fourteenth sei whale to strand on the UK coastline since the Natural History Museum began recording data on strandings in 1913.
Like the other great whales, sei whales are filter feeders eating zooplankton and small fish.
“We have only recorded three sei whale strandings in the UK since funding of the CSIP began in 1990, so the information that we can gain from this individual will be invaluable for the conservation of this threatened species,” says Rob Deaville, ZSL Project Manager of the CSIP.
The area where the whale stranded is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The team from ZSL worked closely with Natural England, the Environment Agency, the Receiver of Wreck, East Riding of Yorkshire council, Associated British Ports, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and British Divers Marine Life Rescue to ensure safe access to this remote location.
Samples taken from the post-mortem will now be sent for further analysis. The information from the examination will be added to the national database on UK stranded cetaceans, which is managed by the CSIP and provides an essential resource for identifying threats to cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) in UK waters, helping to improve their long term conservation status
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