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Update on whale in Thames near Gravesend

3 May 2019 Update on the Whale

The last confirmed sighting of the whale was in December 2018, further downstream from Gravesend. Hydrophones have been placed in the water and can record noise produced by the whale – these have also not recorded any evidence of whale activity.

As the fish that were likely to be the preferred food source for the whale migrate out of the estuary early in the year, we conclude that the whale has moved on elsewhere.

BDMLR and PLA joint press statement 03/10/2018

The beluga whale continues to be highly mobile, providing limited sightings and swimming strongly and from what we can tell, it is exhibiting normal foraging. The sex and age are unknown but improved estimates of length now put it at around 3.5 metres (about eleven feet long).

Discussions have been held this week with whale experts and relevant agencies to share information and assess possible scenarios. Beluga researchers and other experts abroad have been consulted and we will take into consideration their advice and knowledge of this enigmatic species

It is planned to place hydrophone equipment in the water this week to record the whale sounds so that experts can then analyse its behaviour. This may help confirm it is feeding.

The whale’s welfare is our shared priority and we are continuing to observe and protect it. The safety of the public is also paramount. The restriction on boat traffic in the local area remains in force. We continue to ask that members of the public do not attempt to enter the water or bring boats or small craft close to the whale or overfly the water using drones.

BDMLR and PLA joint press statement 27/09/2018

British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) and the Port of London Authority (PLA) are urging river users to steer clear of the beluga whale, which is currently in the Thames Estuary, first spotted on 25 September 2018.

The whale’s last known position was off the shore of Gravesend in Kent. BDMLR and PLA staff are monitoring the whale which appears to be a sub adult (older juvenile but not a fully formed adult). On 26 September, BDMLR medics observed the whale swimming strongly in the Thames current. It also exhibited foraging behaviour, likely feeding, as well as surfacing and diving consistent, with a healthy animal.

However, the beluga is completely out of its home range by many hundreds of miles. “”While this whale is visiting, both organisations will continue to monitor and plan for possible assistance scenarios and then will work cooperatively to ensure the best outcome.” said BDMLR Director Gavin Parsons.

Beluga whales are a small whale species inhabiting the high Arctic, living around the coastlines of northern Scandinavia, Russia, Alaska and Canada. Since the 1960s there have been 20 sightings of Belugas around the UK coast, the last being two whales off Northumberland in 2015. There have been very few stranding. As adults they are pure white, but young are born grey and loose their greyness over the first seven years of life.

The animals generally live in small pods, but in summer will form massive groups around warmer river estuaries, but it is not uncommon for smaller groups and individuals to migrate great distances.

Belugas are unique among cetaceans (the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises) as they do not have fused neck vertebrae and can move their heads.

Tanya Ferry, Environment Manager for the PLA says “We thank river users for their consideration in avoiding the area, and ask them to continue to do so. We are working closely with BDMLR and are in contact with other relevant wildlife welfare organisations”.


Update - 22/10/18

14 Oct – 21 Oct: Sightings of whale during week – with numerous sightings on Tuesday 16 October off Gravesend and sightings to the west of Gravesend on Sunday 21 October.

Update - 13/10/18

Confirmed sightings of whale off Gravesend at approximately 1000 on Saturday 13th October

Update - 12/10/18

Confirmed sighting of whale at approximately 1320 east of Gravesend on Friday 12th October

Update - 11/10/18

Confirmed sighting of whale during afternoon of Thursday 11th October east of Gravesend

Update - 10/10/18

No confirmed sightings of whale on Wednesday 10th October

Update - 9/10/18

Confirmed sighting of whale at approximately 1310 east of Gravesend on Tuesday 9th October

Update - 8/10/18

Confirmed sighting of whale in the Gravesend area at approximately 0805 on Monday 8th October

Update - 7/10/18

Confirmed sighting of whale in same part of the river at approximately 1520 on Sunday 7th October

Update - 6/10/18

No confirmed sightings of whale on Saturday 6th October

Update - 5/10/18

Confirmed sighting of whale east of Gravesend at approximately 1000

Update - 4/10/18

Confirmed sighting of Beluga whale near moorings east of Gravesend at approximately 1000

Update - 3/10/18

No confirmed sightings of whale on Wednesday 3rd October

Update - 2/10/18

No confirmed sightings of whale on Tuesday 2nd October

Update - 1/10/18

Confirmed sighting of the Beluga whale at approximately 1330 on 1st October 2018 just east of Gravesend

Update - 30/9/18

Confirmed sighting of the whale at approximately 1015 on 30th September 2018 close to sightings of previous days

Update - 29/9/18

Confirmed sighting of the whale at approximately 1200 on 29th September 2018 in the Gravesend area

Update - 28/9/18

The whale was sighted at approximately 1230 on 28th September 2018 near moorings just east of Gravesend

Update – 27/9/18

The whale was sighted at 1200 on 27 September 2018 slightly upstream of its previous location.