Hopes fading for sperm whale spotted near Northumberland shore

Concerns are growing for a sperm whale spotted dangerously close to the Northumberland shore, as crowds of onlookers gathered to view the giant mammal.

It is believed that the young male – which is estimated to be between 36ft (11m) and 59ft (18m) long – has been around shallow waters in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea for more than a day.

Sperm whales, the largest of the toothed whales, are not often seen in the North Sea as it lacks the giant and colossal squid they would usually feed on, which are to be found in more tropical waters.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said the animal is “probably not going to survive” due to the lack of food.

Members of the public looking out on the mammal on Friday afternoon (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Members of the public looking out at the whale on Friday (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The whale is estimated to have come within around 650ft (200m) of the shore, and it is feared that it will either drown or wash up.

The spokeswoman told the PA news agency: “We don’t tend to see sperm whales in the North Sea unless there’s been some sort of a problem – it’s not the habitat that they should be in.

“It’s more than likely that in this case it’s taken a wrong turn, and has ended up in a really poor condition.”

She said the animal might have “got lost” as it swam around the west coast of the UK, or taken a wrong turn as it went north of Scotland.

Fears are growing for the whale after it was first spotted on Thursday afternoon (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Fears are growing for the whale after it was first spotted on Thursday afternoon (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The expert added that sightings of sperm whales in the waters around the UK are “very rare”.

She said: “It’s been rolling around up and down the coast for more than a day now, and it’s probably not going to survive.

“It’s been rolling on to its side and it’s displaying its pectoral fin, which is a sign that the animal has been rolling over quite a lot.”

The BDMLR said medics had been tracking the whale, with a crowd of people gathering to watch it.

The Coastguard said the animal had first been spotted at around 3.35pm on Thursday, but was not seen to be “causing any safety risk to vessels or members of the public on the beach and promenade”.

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