29 Sperm Whales Found Dead In 2016, Stranded On Shores Around The North Sea

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Twenty-nine stranded sperm whales have been found either dead or in severe condition in North Sea waters since January 2016.

29 Sperm Whales Found Dead In 2016, Stranded On Shores Around The North Sea

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Twenty-nine stranded sperm whales have been found either dead or in severe condition in North Sea waters since January 2016. 19 carcasses were recovered in the Wadden Sea and two near the German island of Helgoland. Six sperm whales were also found in the Wash area (in the United Kindgom), and another one on the French Coast near Calais. Since the 16th century whale strandings have been reported in the North Sea. They have recently mostly occurred in Denmark, usually with one or two dead animals per year.


Professor Dr. Ursula Siebert from the Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research (ITAW) / University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover – Foundation (TiHo) stated that the reasons why the whales end up in the North Sea are still unclear. As Ms. Siebert said, the migration route of the whales could have been altered by either human activities, regional changes in prey organisms, or several other environmental factors. Temperature shifts in seawater may be the root cause; such changes can alter the migration pattern amongst prey populations and attract the sperm whales into the North Sea.


All whales were males, of roughly the same age, size and weight, that further underpins the claim that they belonged to the same group. As reported by Abbo van Neer of ITAW / Tiho, “they seemed not to suffer from acute food shortage since some of the investigated stomachs contained large numbers of squid beaks, and their nutritional status was good. (...) Apart from natural food, first investigations of their stomachs revealed big plastic waste items, such as parts of buckets and large parts of fishing gear. However, the actual cause of death is probably a collapse of the respiratory tracts, as well as an interruption of the blood flow, since the enormous weight of the bodies suppresses the breathing and further body functions. Their lateral stranding position could also have submerged their blow wholes.”


29 Sperm Whales Found Dead In 2016, Stranded On Shores Around The North Sea

Map of the southern North Sea showing sperm whales stranding sites and numbers © Klöpper CWSS


Removing the corpse of a stranded whale is a difficult task, and can even be risky. As Mr. van Neer explained, “due to their insulating fatty layer, bacterial activities cause temperatures of up to 50°C within the bodies. Within days, the corpses decay significantly and might even explode as a result of gases that increase the inner body pressure.”


Reference: Waddensea-secretariat.org


UPDATE:


In 2016 we published a story named "Sperm Whales Found Dead In Germany, Stomachs FULL Of Plastic And Car Parts" that suggested that two whales found dead in Germany. We reshared the article on Facebook on February 1st 2019.


Leadstories correctly flagged this as incorrect. The story happened in 2016 and, unfortunately, it was 29 sperm whales that were found dead. Also, not all the whales were found in Germany: in fact, the strandings happened in Germany, France, the U.K., and The Netherlands. Finally, while large amounts of plastic garbage were found in the stomachs of four of whales, this did not cause their deaths.


We apologize for misinforming our amazing readers and thank you for understanding this mistake!

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Thinking Humanity: 29 Sperm Whales Found Dead In 2016, Stranded On Shores Around The North Sea
29 Sperm Whales Found Dead In 2016, Stranded On Shores Around The North Sea
Twenty-nine stranded sperm whales have been found either dead or in severe condition in North Sea waters since January 2016.
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