A Fluke Encounter: First record of the blue whale (Balenoptera musculus) within the central North Sea, United Kingdom


Despite holding the accolade as the largest organism ever to live on planet earth and ubiquitously inhabiting the world’s major oceans, an acute paucity of information surrounds the geographical distribution and migration phenology of the endangered blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) in the North East Atlantic. Current migration and distribution information derived from robust scientific studies is required to ensure the formulation and implementation of successful conservation measures with a vision to support the ongoing recovery of the North East Atlantic population. At 10:21 (UTC) on the 9th of November 2020, two blue whales were observed in position 55°13.99’N, 01°13.62’W, 18 km off the coast of the United Kingdom in the central North Sea just north of Newcastle in a water depth of 76 m. The following record paper is the only confirmed account of live blue whales frequenting shallow waters of the central North Sea and represents a new area of occurrence within the accepted range of the North East Atlantic population, an area in which sightings are extremely rare and may provide insight into the intricacies of migration routes and behaviour.

KEY WORDS: Blue whale · Balenoptera musculus · North Sea · North East Atlantic · Migration · Distribution

Edward Lavallin, Nils Øien & Richard Sears.

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