Dead whale beached in Northern Ireland could end up on landfill site

Scientists believe the Sei whale may have died of old age

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The Independent Online

A dead whale could be dumped in a landfill site after being washed up on a beach in Northern Ireland.

The 43ft carcass was seen in the surf off Portstewart Strand, Londonderry, on Monday afternoon and was beached later in the day.

As hundreds of onlookers gathered on the sand, the coastguard, National Trust and Department of the Environment mounted an operation to remove the Sei whale.

Joe Breen, from the Department of the Environment, said the creature was the third Sei whale to have washed ashore in Ireland over the last eight years.

“She was the maximum age for her species, so it may have been old age and it was her time to die,” he told BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster programme.

“Ten years ago, it would have been very unusual to get an animal of this species stranded on our shores.

“In the previous 100 years, around the British coast, 14 were stranded.

“But in the last eight years, we have had three - one at Larne, one at Red Bay and this one.

“It is something we are going to have to look into a bit more within the department.”



Sei whales are a protected species and officials were investigating what caused the mammal’s death.

Witnesses said environmental officers initially tried to move the whale using two diggers but they were not sufficient to move up to 20 tonnes of carcass.

The 43ft animal was taken away on a trailer after three diggers were used to lift it on to a low loader during an operation lasting several hours.

Contracters working on the nearby A26 offered their help when it became a much larger digger was needed, the BBC reported.

The dead whale was beached on Portstewart Strand in Northern Ireland

Joe Passmore, who was one of the residents watching the operation unfold, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “You could see it clearly in the shallow water on the beach. It looked quite big then but…once you saw it out the water it was absolutely massive.

“There was a full crew of workmen there and it took three diggers with buckets and so on to lift it and drag it on to the back of this low loader.”

Tracy Platt, a scientific officer with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, told the Belfast Telegraph the large red-orange protrusion from its mouth was its tongue, swollen by gases.

She said the whale’s remains would probably be incorporated into a landfill system.