Sunday 1 December 2019

Balaenoptera acutorostrata: Northern Minke Whale found dead in the River Thames.

The Port of London Authority has reported a the discovery of the body of a Whale on the south bank of the River Thames on Friday 29 November 2019. The animal was discovered by a dog walker near Battersea Bridge at about 9.30 pm local time, and is visibly not breathing. The Wale is thought to be a Northern Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata; it is currently being assessed by experts from British Divers Marine Life Rescue, who hope to move the body so that it can be delivered to the Zoological Society of London for a post-mortem examination.

A Minke Whale on the South Bank of the River Thames near Battersea Bridge. Clio Georgiadis/BBC.

Northern Minke Whales are considered to be of Least Concern  under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. They were heavily hunted before the general moratorium on whaling began in 1986, with several nations still hunting them today, including Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland in the North Atlantic, albeit at a much lower level that before the moratorium; they are also vulnerable to ship strikes, entanglement in fishing nets and anthropogenic noise. Despite this they maintain a healthy population in many areas, including the North Atlantic, and are regularly sighted in British waters, particularly off the west coast of Scotland. The species reaches about ten metres in length, but the Thames individual is less than half this size, suggesting that it was a calf that became separated from its mother, and was unable to find food on its own.

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