Third whale in two months found dead in River Thames

Stranded minke discovered by members of public near Battersea Bridge in London

Peter Stubley
Saturday 30 November 2019 19:36
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Humpback whale spotted swimming in Thames in London

A dead whale has been found in the River Thames for the third time in the past two months.

The marine mammal – believed to be a minke – was spotted swimming up and down the river in London by several members of the public on Friday.

A dog-walker later found it lying motionless in shallow water near Battersea Bridge at around 9.30pm and it was later confirmed dead when a rescue team arrived.

It comes after a humpback whale nicknamed Hessy was found dead in the Thames near Greenhithe on 8 October and a sei whale was found dead in Gravesend on 18 October.

“A whale is very unusual in the River Thames, however we have now had three in the past two months,” said Martin Garside of the Port of London Authority (PLA).

“They are all different species and there is no obvious, simple cause. Hopefully we can learn about what causes it, is it just nature or is there some external reason.’

The PLA will first move the whale to a facility in east London before handing it over to experts at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) for a necropsy.

Around 600 cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are found stranded around the UK coastline every year, according to the ZSL.

The society’s investigation of strandings in the UK over a 25 year period found that live strandings were the third highest cause of death after bycatch (unintentional capture by fishing industry) and infectious disease.

Hessy the humpback died after being hit by a ship while the Thames sei whale had live-stranded and also suffered from a “significant intestinal parasite infestation”.

When “Benny the Beluga” whale was spotted in the Thames in 2016 it was seen as a symbol of the threat posed by global climate change and pollution.

However, that incident is – unusually – believed to have ended happily. “We are 99 per cent certain that the animal made it home,” said Mr Garside.

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