Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Coroner of the Seas Has to Deal with Dead Whale; Giant Mammal Washed Up on North Beach

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Coroner of the Seas Has to Deal with Dead Whale; Giant Mammal Washed Up on North Beach

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Black

MARITIME salvage experts who normally deal with shipwrecks were called in yesterday after the body of a whale was washed up on a beach in Northumberland.

Scores of fascinated local residents, dog walkers and day-trippers made their way to Cresswell Beach near Druridge Bay to have a look at the 20ft-long dead mammal, believed to be a male minke whale, which was spotted on the sand at 9.30am.

Coastguard staff went to the scene and roped off the partly decomposed body before awaiting instructions from the Official Receiver of Wrecks.

Under British law dating back centuries, beached whales, dolphins, porpoises and sturgeon - so-called royal fish - are the property of the Queen.

The Receiver of Wrecks, part of the ONLINE Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and sometimes called the Coroner of the Seas, has to be notified about their discovery, and give permission for the disposal of whale carcases.

Late yesterday afternoon - after the incoming tide had engulfed the dead whale - Castle Morpeth Council, worked with the Environment Agency on how best to dispose of the body.

Coast and countryside officer Sam Talbot, who had earlier gone to the beach with colleague Colin Marlee in a bid to identify what kind of whale it was, said the disposal options appeared to be landfill, incineration or rendering on the spot - although the carcase will have to be removed from the sands.

She said: "We believe it is either a minke or fin whale, although we are leaning towards a minke.

"It is quite badly decomposed, so it is hard to tell. The police had a launch out yesterday circling a dead whale in the sea off Blyth, and we think this could be the same one.

"My colleague has been with the council for 23 years and this is the first time he has come across a dead whale washed up.

We sometimes find seals and porpoises, but a whale is pretty unusual and the local dog walkers have not seen anything like this before."

Jonathan Lamberth of Newbiggin coastguard, who was helping keep watch over the dead giant, said: "We have had lots of people coming down to have a look, but it is starting to smell a bit and we have roped the body off to try to stop dogs from getting at it. …

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