Washed-up fin whale taken away for tests

The whale is removed from Portstewart on Monday night after a major removal operation swung into place
The whale is removed from Portstewart on Monday night after a major removal operation swung into place

The 20-tonne carcass of a juvenile fin whale which washed up on Portstewart Strand has been moved to a licensed landfill site.

The 13-metre animal – initially thought to have been a Sperm whale, then a Sei whale – was first spotted on the beach at midday on Monday.

The whale is removed from Portstewart on Monday night after a major removal operation swung into place

The whale is removed from Portstewart on Monday night after a major removal operation swung into place

The operation to move the mammal – involving the Department of the Environment, the coastguard and the National Trust – began on Monday evening.

The National Trust, who are owners and beach managers for Portstewart Strand, tasked heavy plant operators to organise removal of the carcass.

Initial attempts to lift the animal failed, but eventually at 10pm the animal was successfully loaded on to a low loader.

Joe Breen, from the DoE, said before burial the animal will be inspected by scientists and pathologists from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) to gather additional scientific and genetic information, as well as possibly determining the cause of death.

Mr Breen said this was the “first time a juvenile fin whale has stranded in Northern Ireland”.

“This is the second biggest animal in the world after the blue whale, and it coming here is incredible,” he said.

He added the reasons for it coming to the Ulster coastline include “a rise in sea temperatures” and “food availability”.

“These whales are seen worldwide in cold water and warm water.”