September 29th, 2016 (Maxc73). Experts say the carcass washed up on a Devon beach this morning is not a sperm whale as previously thought, but an endangered fin whale – the second-largest animal after the blue whale.
The massive marine mammal – which measures around 50ft – was discovered on Red Rock beach, between Dawlish Warren and Dawlish, this morning.
Fin whales are usually found in large numbers in the Bay of Biscay but their presence in British waters is a relatively new discovery.
Rob Deaville, of The Zoological Society of London, said the key indicator was the colour of markings on its jaw.
He works on the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP), collecting data on strandings from around the UK.
Onlookers have been lining the sea wall taking pictures and watching coastguard and council officials deal with the dead beast.
One witness said : “It’s such a shame to see such a magnificent creature come to such a sad end.”
The whale was first spotted in the sea before it washed up on shore.
Coastguards had been tracking the whale as it drifted down the coast – initially mistaking it for an upturned boat.
British Divers Marine Life Rescue have also said that it is likely to be a fin whale based on its size.
Teignbridge District Council has asked people to keep a “respectful distance” – and a cordon has been put up around it.
But people can still get close – about seven metres away – to observe.
The council said in a statement: “The carcass of a whale has washed up near Langstone Rock, Dawlish.
“At this stage it is unclear where it came from and it has been tracked in channel by coastguard following reports from commercial ships.
“This part of the beach is owned by Crown Estate and normally it falls to the local authority to deal with anything washed up and the appropriate disposal or salvage.”
Local councillor Humphrey Clemens – who is Teignbridge’s spokesperson for coastal services – said: “This is a sad situation and we are dealing with it in the most appropriate and sensitive way possible.
“We would ask that people respect the nature of the incident and stay a safe distance away from the carcass.
“A cordon has been put in place to help manage this. We are looking at a number of options to dispose of the whale at an appropriate licensed facility.”