Rare 25ft Arctic bowhead whale spotted off British coast for first time ever

Bowhead whale seen swimming off Isles of Scilly

Updated: 
Rare 25ft Arctic bowhead whale spotted off British coast

A bowhead whale has been spotted for the first time ever off the British coast - 2,000 miles from home.

The whale was spotted by resident and diver Anna Cawthray, who took photographs on a mobile phone of the sighting at Par Beach, on the island of St Martin's in the Isles of Scilly.

She forwarded the pictures to the Sea Watch Foundation, which described the sighting as "extraordinary".

The foundation took to Twitter to share the news of the sighting:



On its website, the Sea Watch Foundation said: "This extraordinary sighting, the first of this species in the UK, has not been recorded elsewhere in Europe (south of the Barents Sea).

"Bowheads normally live in the high Arctic. Heavily exploited by whalers in the Arctic Ocean, in Baffin Bay off Greenland, and the Barents Sea north of Norway, the population seriously declined during the early twentieth century from numbers historically estimated to be around 30,000-50,000, reaching a low in the 1920s of c. 3,000.

"With the cessation of commercial whaling in the latter half of the last century, numbers globally have increased to somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000, mainly in the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean. The Eastern Arctic-West Greenland population has increased recently and now is thought to number well over 3,500."

Indeed, Sea Watch founder Dr Peter Evans believes the whale may have actually come from Greenland, where the species' numbers are increasing.

He said: "Bowhead whales are unusual amongst whale species in being largely confined to the coldest parts of the world, generally never far from the ice edge. So to appear this far south may seem enigmatic, particularly when seas are warming, thus encouraging species to extend their ranges."

He added: "The welcome increase in the size of the West Greenland population may also be a contributory factor for why this creature appeared some two thousand miles from its normal range."

The Sea Watch Foundation also gave some facts on bowhead whales, revealing they males can grow up to 18 metres while females can grow as large as 20 metres (70ft), and can weigh as much as 90 tonnes.

The animals feed on small crustaceans taken from near the surface by skim feeding.

They can live up to 200 years making this possibly the longest-lived of all marine mammals.


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