North Atlantic right whale spotted off Cornwall?22/05/2012 06:35:56 Cornish mystery whale could be one or the most endangered species- scientists appeal for more sightings
May 2012. Sightings of a large whale off the Cornish coast near Lizard Point are causing a stir amongst scientists who say it could have been a North Atlantic right whale, one of the most endangered species in the world. Other possibilities are the Gray whale which went extinct in Atlantic Waters in the 17th century, though one was seen in 2010 in The Mediterranean, or a humpback whale.
Peter Evans, Research Director of the marine mammal research and conservation charity Sea Watch has described the sightings as ‘exciting and intriguing'. He is appealing for anyone else who has seen the whale to contact Sea Watch - a national marine conservation charity and holder of the largest data base of whales and dolphins in Europe - with descriptions, and, if possible, pictures.
Since the whale was seen in April discussions between local experts, eye witnesses and the marine research and conservation charity Sea Watch suggest that the North Atlantic right whale is the most likely species.Seen off The Lizard
The whale was seen by a group of teenage anglers, Jim Cave, a local resident, and by a canoeist off Hot Point, just east of Lizard Point. It may also have been the same one seen in the same area last autumn.
Sea Watch Research Director Peter Evans has described the sightings as ‘exciting and intriguing'. He is appealing for anyone else who has seen the whale to contact Sea Watch - a national marine conservation charity and holder of the largest data base of whales and dolphins in Europe - with descriptions, and ,if possible, pictures.
"Humpback whales have a dorsal fin but this varies in size and it might not have been visible at the time. Humpback sightings are increasing around the British Isles, though mainly off Scotland. The last sightings off Cornwall were in July 2011 when a juvenile was seen entangled in a fishing net near St Ives, and in August 2010 when a young one live stranded and died in the same area."
Jim said: "I looked up when I heard them shouting' it's a whale'. I had a good view but did not see the head. Just the back that was breaking the surface smoothly and quite long and not a lot above sea level. Then the tail appeared straight up into the air and very large- 2m -and smoothly disappeared. The tail was forked but not deeply and I saw some barnacles at the front end."
Rory Goodall says: "I was really excited when I heard of the sighting from my old family friend Jim Cave. We have various kinds of whales visiting us here in the south west but I immediately knew from Jim's description that this was something very different.
No dorsal fin
The population of North Atlantic right whales in the eastern North Atlantic is now extremely small due to centuries of over-exploitation. Of the handful of records, most are from the Iberian Peninsula south to the Canaries. Although the species can migrate as far north as Iceland, the majority used to occur much further south which is why they could easily be hunted - human populations living around the shores of the Bay of Biscay and Southern Britain (possibly also the southern North Sea) could readily go out and find them - hence one of their alternative names, 'Biscayan whale'.