Holkham whale’s spinal injury could have been from ship strike, experts say

Fin whale washed up on the beach on the Holkham estate. ANL-161021-094753001
Fin whale washed up on the beach on the Holkham estate. ANL-161021-094753001

The 40ft whale which was found dead on Holkham beach on Thursday (October, 20) last week may have been injured by a ship strike, experts have said.

After appealing for photos of the left side of the fin whale, which the team from Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) did not have access to when they arrived on scene, a new image shows an “apparent deep laceration” on that side.

Officials examining a fin whale which washed up on Holkham beach on the afternoon of Thursday, October 20. ANL-161021-163900001

Officials examining a fin whale which washed up on Holkham beach on the afternoon of Thursday, October 20. ANL-161021-163900001

A post on the CSIP’s Facebook page said: “Although we can’t determine the potential cause(s) of the lesion without having examined it directly ourselves, it is certainly reasonable to presume it might have been the result of an earlier ship strike.

“So we now speculate that the possible sequence of events might have been: historical traumatic event such as ship strike, which injured but didn’t kill the whale; damage to and distortion of the vertebra/musculature; limiting the range of movement in the caudal peduncle (tail stock); causing progressive wasting of this area; limiting the ability to dive and feed; and leading to starvation and eventual live stranding and death.

“The provisional cause of death is now: ‘starvation, sequential to spinal abnormality (possible historical ship strike)’, pending the results of follow up analyses.”