Watch footage of rare whale spotted off North East coast

A deep-water whale species, which is rarely found in the North Sea, has been filmed by a local fisherman.

Tuesday, 3rd October 2017, 3:07 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th October 2017, 9:45 am
A northern bottlenose whale. Pic: S.Hooker/Sea Watch Foundation.

Trevor Walker is a regular pleasure fisherman who frequently encounters dolphins on his trips.

However, his recent sighting of a northern bottlenose whale close to the shore of Beadnell in Northumberland in a rare one indeed.

A northern bottlenose whale. Pic: S.Hooker/Sea Watch Foundation.

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On Friday he reported it to the Sea Watch Foundation, the national whale and dolphin monitoring unit.

He sent in a video of it just metres from his boat, filmed with a GoPro camera, during a trip with his sons Liam and Brendan, back in June.

"It was steaming away quite unperturbed by us," said Mr Walker. "We could have followed it, but we just filmed it and moved on, so as not to disturb it."

Northern bottlenose whales have a bulbous forehead with a protruding beak, like an exaggerated version of their namesakes, bottlenose dolphins.

A northern bottlenose whale. Pic: S.Hooker/Sea Watch Foundation.

They have a broad-based triangular dorsal fin located about two-thirds of the way along their backs.

These leviathans can be up to 10 metres long and Trevor estimated that this individual was 7-8 metres in length, which might point to it being a female of the species.

Usually found in deep ocean trenches of the North Atlantic, these typically occur in the Barents Sea, around Iceland and north-west of Norway, but not usually in the relatively shallow waters of the North Sea.

The most famous visit from the species occurred 11 years ago when the ‘Thames Whale’ was sadly stranded up the London river opposite the Houses of Parliament before having to be euthanised by vets.

Sea Watch Foundation holds 222 recorded sightings of the beaked whale, as far back as 1966, and as widely distributed as Shetland to the Bay of Biscay off northern Spain.

This is one of only six sightings on the east coast in the last decade, two of which were strandings in shallow waters, making Mr Walker's video even more remarkable.

Kathy James, sightings officer for Sea Watch Foundation, said: "I was thrilled to see such a clear video that enabled us to confirm the reported species.

"It’s just amazing to see this relatively unknown creature of the deep with one of our towns in the background.

"The UK really does have waters that are incredibly rich for cetaceans - that’s whales, dolphins and porpoises.

"Reporting sightings to Sea Watch is a really important way to document them for their research and protection."

Anyone interested in monitoring cetaceans is urged to visit the Sea Watch Foundation website HEREto report their sightings or become a volunteer.

Sea Watch organises a National Whale and Dolphin Watch every year, when members of the public can join experienced observers around the coastline to collect sightings.

Next year’s takes place between 28 July and 5 August, and in total, 29 species of dolphins, whales and porpoises have been recorded in UK and Irish waters - 13 during a National Whale and Dolphin Watch.

S Hooker/Sea Watch Foundation.