Public warned to stay away from dead whale washed up on East Lothian beach

The public has been warned to stay clear of a minke whale carcass after it was washed up on an East Lothian beach.

The heavily decomposed 30ft whale was discovered at Belhaven beach, near Dunbar, by shocked members of the public on Sunday night.

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30ft whale washed up on East Lothian beach

Marine experts believe the whale may have been entangled in creel ropes. However, the animal is believed to have been dead for several weeks and is too decomposed for this to be confirmed.

The 30ft whale washed up on Belhaven beach. Pic Coast to Coast surf schoolThe 30ft whale washed up on Belhaven beach. Pic Coast to Coast surf school
The 30ft whale washed up on Belhaven beach. Pic Coast to Coast surf school
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If trapped, the mammal may not have been able to surface on a regular basis to breathe or be able to feed on its usual prey of fish, squid and krill.

Corinne Gordon, of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said: “It is believed this whale was entangled. If this was the case then it would not have been able to come to the surface for air so it would have drowned.

“If it was unable to move then it would not have been able to feed either.

“It is a really sad situation but there is absolutely nothing we can do unfortunately.”

Residents have been warned to not approach the minke whale. But Ms Gordon did dismiss speculation on Facebook that the animal could “explode”. It’s not uncommon for a whale carcass to explode, which usually occurs due to a build-up of gas in its abdominal cavity, including methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide.

Ms Gordon added: “This whale has very much decomposed so there is no chance of it exploding.

“I’d urge everyone to keep away from it because whales are full of bacteria so people do not want to go near it.”

Teams from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme and East Lothian Council have also been at the scene.

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Sam Christopherson, director of Coast to Coast Surf School, said: “We became aware of the whale this morning when one of our teachers went out to give a session.

“It is so big. The whale is definitely a lot bigger than the usual animals that get washed up on this beach. We will usually get a few whales, seals and dolphins a year here.

“It is horrendous for the animal. It’s such a shame to see these kind of incidents.”

A Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme spokesman said: “The minke whale was reported to us late on Sunday.

“It’s been dead for several weeks. There are some lesions suggestive of entanglement in creel ropes but the animal is too decomposed for necropsy to confirm this.”

With an autopsy to determine the cause of death out of the question, the whale will most likely be disposed of by East Lothian Council at the landfill site in Dunbar.

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council said: “We are aware of the whale carcass at Belhaven and arrangements have been made by our Countryside Officers, via a specialist contractor, to dispose of it as soon as possible.”

Minkes are the most common whales in Scottish waters, especially in the summer time.

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In April 2017 wildlife experts helped refloat a 20ft minke whale that was found stranded on a beach in Fife. A second attempt to refloat the mammal at high tide proved successful after being spotted on the beach west of Elie.