BDMLR’s assistance was requested by Humber HM Coastguard after a sperm whale stranded at Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire on 7 March. The whale had been seen at around midday upright in the water but by the time it stranded, it was listing to one side. HM Coastguard and Cleethorpes beach safety team were able to get photographs to help us make a positive identification, and keep the public safe on what can be a dangerous area.
Unfortunately, the tide was rising quickly and therefore there was no way for BDMLR Medics to safely access the whale, and it was soon under the water. The beach safety team were able to show our Medics CCTV footage of the whale before it became submerged, and it did appear to have passed away.
We believe the whale to be male as it is very uncommon for female sperm whales to be found this far north, the only recording of one in the UK being in 2016. Sperm whales are the largest toothed whale reaching up to 16 meters in length, and can hold their breath for up to 120 minutes while they dive for giant squid. Sperm whales are a specialist deep diving species, and there have been a number of strandings on North Sea coasts over the years. It seems these animals end up outside their normal habitat in these relatively shallow waters where they struggle to feed and find their way back out, becoming malnourished and disorientated. Unfortunately, this means by the time they strand, if alive, they are often in poor health.
The Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme have been informed of the incident and although the whale is likely to shift position over the next few hours, it is it possible it will turn up again on the next low tide. It’s very important that people keep away from the body of any deceased marine mammal as the reason for it stranding is not known, and disease cannot be ruled out.