Oceanic giants gather off the south-west British coast

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One of the largest known gatherings of Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) in British waters has been sighted.

The whales were in an area of sea known as the 'Celtic Deep', situated 50-70 nautical miles off the coasts of north Cornwall and south west Pembrokeshire.

Researchers from the charity MARINElife were on a three week study cruise of whales, dolphins and seabirds on board the research vessel Cefas Endeavour, when they sighted the gathering of 21 of the gigantic cetaceans.

The whales were grouped together in an area of around 10 miles and were thought to be feeding on dense layers of krill and sand eels detected by the ships echo-sounders.

Little previous data exists on the presence of Fin whales in the area in spring, but they are considered rare visitors in summer when more surveys take place. Recent survey work by other groups indicate a rise in numbers of large whales in the area which may be linked with climate change.

Dr Tom Brereton, MARINElife Research Director commented: "We have been monitoring Fin whale numbers in their Bay of Biscay stronghold for over 15 years, so we are used to seeing large numbers, but to see so many within British waters in close proximity is unprecedented and an exciting new discovery."

Fin whales are the second longest species of whale growing to around 27m/88ft long and weighing approximately 70 tonnes.

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