On Monday 4th April at around 7pm, we received a call from HM Coastguard alerting us to a live marine mammal washing ashore at Gorleston, Norfolk. Members of the public were trying to push the animal back in the water, so the Coastguard tasked a team to attend for public safety.
At 7.30pm Marine & Wildlife Rescue arrived on scene and were able to confirm the size and species of mammal, a young male minke whale measuring 3.5m. The animal was being rolled around in the surf, which was making an assessment very difficult. Shortly after, BDMLR volunteer medics arrived with equipment and with help from HMCG we were able to get a rescue mat under the animal so it could be moved away from the water for a health check, and to prevent it further injury from being rolled on the incoming tide.
Minke whales are not weaned until around 5m so a calf under that size will almost certainly still be maternally dependent, and therefore cannot be returned to the sea without knowing that the parent animal is there, as it would not be able to feed. There had been no reported sighting of whales in the area during the day, and the good sea conditions at the time allowed observers to be certain there were no adult animals in the immediate area at the time of stranding.
At 10.15pm, with the whale now secure in our rescue pontoons, a vet arrived on scene and due to the condition of the animal and the age, a decision was made on welfare grounds, to humanely euthanase the whale.
A post mortem examination will be carried out by the Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme, which will give us an insight into why and how this young whale came to strand.
We would like to thank our BDMLR Marine Mammal Medics, HM Coastguard, Marine & Wildlife Rescue, The Veterinary Hospital – Gorleston, Great Yarmouth Council, and local emergency services for their assistance throughout.
Photo credit: Marie Young