A whale, confirmed to be a rarely seen Sowerby’s beaked whale, washed up on the coast of Ostend on Wednesday evening, near the Oosterstaketsel.
The 2.9 metres long animal was found dead, however, the cause is unknown at this time.
“Perhaps it got into trouble at the rocks of the breakwater, because it was injured. Presumably, it stranded and then died,” Jan Haelters, a marine biologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences told the media.
This is the eighth Sowerby’s beaked whale to wash up on the shore. The last instance happened in 1972, making this an infrequent occurrence, said Haelters.
The species is commonly found in the open sea in the Atlantic Ocean, but not in the North Sea, leading scientists to conclude the animal was lost. “It is adapted to very deep waters, can dive up to 1,000 metres deep and feeds on squids. The North Sea is by no means the right habitat,” Haelters adds.
The whale was taken to the University of Ghent for an autopsy. “For scientists, this is a unique opportunity,” explained Haelters.
The cause of the animal’s death is currently unknown, but the contents of its stomach are expected to provide some information. Notably, the species is sensitive to eating plastic, said Haelters.