No One Knows Why Sperm Whales Are Stranding On Europe’s North Sea Beaches
LONDON, Feb 5 (Reuters) – A sixth sperm whale has died on a British beach, the latest of nearly 30 to have become stranded in shallow waters on the coastline of Europe’s North Sea over the past month.
As marine pathologists cut samples from the whale‘s carcass on the windswept expanse of sand at low tide, scientists said it was too early to know exactly why so many whales had taken a wrong turn into the North Sea.
Since mid-January, 29 sperm whales have died on beaches in the Netherlands, France, Germany and Britain. They are thought by experts to be members of the same pod, a group of young males migrating south from sub-polar waters.
“What we’ve got here is a bunch of teenagers out having a good time but taking a wrong turning into the North Sea,” said British Divers Marine Life Rescue operations manager Stephen March. “They should have gone a bit further west and into the open Atlantic,” he told Reuters.
Mass strandings of sperm whales are not uncommon in the region historically, with sightings dating back to the 16th century. In the 1760s, six of the 15 meter-long, 35-ton whales swam into the river Thames before dying.
From the 19th century onwards, however, as whale hunting intensified, there were fewer such incidents.
Experts said the latest beachings could be a sign of a recovery in the sperm whale population following protection measures passed in the 1980s. The species is currently listed as “vulnerable” by nature authorities.
“It is quite possible that we will see more sperm whale strandings in the North Sea in future and we will have more mass strandings if the population is recovering,” said Paul Jepson, a reader at the Institute of Zoology in London.
At Hunstanton, in eastern England, crowds gathered to see the doomed —> Read More