Climate Action

Conservationists fear for beluga whale in River Thames

The RCPCA are monitoring the whale, nicknamed Benny, to ensure he finds his way home.

  • 26 September 2018
  • Rachel Cooper

The RCPCA are monitoring the whale, nicknamed Benny, to ensure he finds his way home.

A spokesman for the RSPCA said: “The RSPCA is aware of reports of a whale, possibly a beluga, in the Thames. We are working with other agencies to monitor the situation and ready to provide appropriate assistance if requested.”

The whale was spotted yesterday in the River Thames, just off Gravesend, by Dave Andrews. He spotted the whale swimming near Coalhouse Fort, Essex, 1,000 miles from its usual habitat in the Arctic Ocean. He took to twitter to share footage of the whale swimming in the Thames.

Danny Groves, from the charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said: “This is a high Arctic species thousands of miles from where it should be in Greenland, Svalbard or the Barents Sea. They are usually associated close to the ice. He or she is obviously very lost and quite possibly in trouble.”

Beluga whales range from 3.9 metres to 6.1 metres in length and are “one of the most familiar and easily distinguishable” of all whales, according to the National Geographic.

Tanya Ferry, Environment Manager at the Port of London Authority which is monitoring the whale, said it was unclear what the whale could eat, but mentioned the UK’s growing plastic pollution problem.

Tanya said: “We do have quite a lot of plastic bags, which could be quite an issue. We're hoping if we give it enough space and keep an eye on it, it will find its own way out of the Thames to an environment that's more appropriate for it. We certainly don't want people trying to rescue it.”

Julia Cable, British Divers Marine Life Rescue’s national coordinator, also pointed to last week’s storms being a reason for the whale being so far from home.

However, it is not the first time a Beluga whale has been spotted swimming in British waters, in 2015 a whale was spotted in Northumberland.

Alongside this, in 2006, a whale died after swimming up the river into central London, despite efforts from conservationists to save the animal.

Today, Benny the Beluga has resurfaced again in the Thames and appears to have travelled a few miles west since yesterday.