A beached whale has died despite desperate efforts to refloat it.
Rescuers were called to Carlyon Bay near St Austell in Cornwall by walkers at around 5pm yesterday after they spotted the 65ft female fin whale stranded on the beach.
But vets from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said there was no hope of refloating the injured animal, which was "incredibly undernourished".
The BDMLR said the difficult decision had been made to put down the animal for humane reasons, but the whale died naturally and this was not necessary.
Faye Archell, of the BDMLR, said before the whale died: "It is incredibly under-nourished and has a very high breathing rate, which suggests it is very sick and distressed.
"It would be wrong for us to put a sick animal back into the sea. We are frustrated about it but we cannot help it."
The whale, which was stranded on an outgoing tide, had injuries to its head, gashes to its body and was injured around one eye.
A BDMLR spokesman added: "In the end, the whale died without being put to sleep but it was not possible for the body to be secured to anything on the beach, so it may move with the tide.
"It is hoped that it can be recovered for post-mortem and the public have been reminded that it is an offence to take any part of a whale without the appropriate licence."
Around 300 people gathered at the scene as a team of people tried to get the whale back into the sea.
The coastguard and police cordoned off the beach to prevent further distress to the whale.
Inspector Dave Meredith, of Devon and Cornwall Police, tweeted last night: "The stranded whale has now passed away. Due to its injuries and poor condition there was no hope of rescue. A very sad incident for us all."
The coastguard said earlier: "A member of the public contacted Brixham Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre at just before a quarter to five this afternoon to report that a 65ft-long whale had beached itself on Carlyon Beach, Cornwall.
"The whale, which is believed to be a fin whale, was reported to be alive and thrashing about in the shallow water.
"Brixham Coastguard alerted British Divers Marine Life Rescue. Two vets from this volunteer group are now on scene.
"St Austell Coastguard rescue team and Devon and Cornwall Police are also on scene to assist the marine rescue team and make sure the public do not cause the whale further distress."
The fin whale is the second largest animal ever to have lived and can grow to 75-85 feet (22-26 metres), weigh up to 74 tonnes and live for up to 90 years.
An endangered species, it feeds on krill, small schooling fish and squid and is often found in social groups of two to seven animals.