Sunderland urged to be on the look out for rare Arctic whales

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Seaside visitors in Sunderland are being asked to keep an eye out for two Arctic whales which have been spotted along the North East coastline.

The appeal, from the Sea Watch Foundation, follows sightings of rare beluga whales off the coast of South Shields.

Now Sunderland residents could be in for a whale of a time as experts predict the pair of whales are moving along the coastline towards Sunderland in the coming days.

On Tuesday, the rare sightings delighted passers-by in South Shields, who saw the bright white whales swimming along the pier around 12pm.

Kathy James, sightings officer from the Sea Watch Foundation, said they received reports of the marine mammals on Tuesday, with the first sighting at 12pm and a second sighting at 12.45pm.

“We first had reports of beluga whales at Warkworth Bay, Northumberland, on Sunday,” she said.

“That was amazing and we thought it was just a one off- but then they were seen again on Monday in South Shields.”

Spectators gathered along South Shields Pier to take in the breathtaking sight of the two large white whales in the sea.

Ms James said that the temperature of our sea at present must be similar to that of their traditional Arctic climate for them to drift so far from home.

“When they are on home territory there can be hundreds of them together,” Ms James added.

“There have only ever been 17 sightings of them in the UK since 1964 and three sightings this year- so it is really rare.”

The Arctic species are thousands of miles away from home and the two of them are believed to be travelling down the coast together.

Now the Sea Watch Foundation is asking any members of the public who see the whales to report their sightings to them online by visiting: www.
seawatchfoundation.org.uk.

Beluga whales are opportunistic feeders. Their diet includes salmon, Arctic cod, herring, and shrimp.

It is estimated that beluga whales number in the hundreds of thousands and are widely distributed throughout seasonally ice-covered Arctic and subarctic waters.

They inhabit waters off the shores of Russia, Greenland, Canada, Norway and the United States (Alaska).

Belugas forage for food in the water column and on the seabed. This typically takes place at depths of up to 1,000 feet, but they can dive to at least twice this depth.

Belugas congregate and travel in groups of two to as many as several hundred.

They are found close to shore or in the open sea and during the summer months in some areas they gather in the estuaries of rivers to feed and calve.

Belugas use sound to find their prey. They also use sound to communicate and navigate by producing a variety of clicks, chirps and whistles.