Friday 25 December 2020

Sperm Whales stranded on Yorkshire coast all reported to have died.

A pod of ten young Sperm Whales, Physeter macrocephalus, which stranded on the coast of East Yorkshire between Tunstall and Withernsea have all died, according to British Divers Marine Life Rescue. The Whales were first spotted by a member of the public at about 8.30 am, who reported them to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, who in turn contacted British Divers Marine Life Rescue. It was not considered possible to mount any form of rescue operation for the Whales, due to their large size (Sperm Whales can reach about 20 m in length, and weigh up to 80 tonnes) and the rough seas in the area. Sperm Whales seldom live for long if they strand on the shore, and initial inspections of the Yorkshire Whales suggested that they appear to have been malnourished before stranding. Reports of additional Whale strandings at Spurn Point have not been substantiated.

A Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, stranded on the coast of East Yorkshire on 24 December 2020. British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

Sperm Whales are the largest species of Toothed Whales, reaching about 20.5 m in length. The species is currently considered to be Vulnerable under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, with a population that probably measures somewhere in the hundreds of thousands. The species is thought to have had a population of over a million around the beginning of the nineteenth century, but to have fallen to about 29 000 by 1880. The population rose again in the early twentieth century, as targeting of the species by Whalers declined, then fell from 1946 to 1980 as hunting of Sperm Whales increased again. Since 1985 the species has been protected by a moratorium on the taking of Whales agreed by the International Whaling Commission, and although a few Sperm Whales have been taken by the Japanese Whaling fleet since this time, the main threat to these animals is thought to come from Fishing nets, in which they can become entangled and drown, and plastics, which they can ingest, filling up their stomachs and preventing them from taking their normal food (mostly Squid). 

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