Could blue whales one day visit Suffolk’s coast?

A humpback whale pictured in Quebec, Canada. Credit: Carl Chapman, Wildlife tours and Education

A humpback whale pictured in Quebec, Canada. Credit: Carl Chapman, Wildlife tours and Education - Credit: Archant

The wildlife tour leader who recorded the second ever humpback sighting in Suffolk last week has said he believes the county’s coast may one day be visited by blue whales.

Carl Chapman, who is the cetacean recorder for Norfolk, caused a ripple of excitement among naturalists on Thursday when he reported the sighting at RSPB Minsmere – almost a year after the first ever official recording of a humpback whale was made from a nearby location.

Mr Chapman, who runs Wildlife Tours and Education and is also the regional Seawatch Foundation co-ordinator, said it was “fantastic” to have seen the majestic beast off the East Anglian coastline, which he believes is a positive indication of the health of the marine ecosystem.

“Humpback whale sightings have increased to something like what they used to be before man’s exploitation of their natural resource and the hunting of whales, which finished in the 1970s,” he said. “In addition, we’ve also seen a good number of herring offshore, which the whales feed on by following their migration from north to south. The more we protect the North Sea and improve fish stocks, the more that we will see whales return.

“In the last year we’ve had humpbacks and minkes – one day I would not be surprised if we saw a blue whale off the Suffolk coast.”

Concerns have previously been expressed that humpback whales sighted close to shore, away from their traditional migration route, may be confused or disorientated.

However Mr Chapman said that unlike sperm whales, which require deep water to feed on squid, humpbacks are quite content in shallower seas. “I’ve seen humpbacks all over the world, in both hemispheres, and it’s quite natural for them to approach shallow water – they go where the food is,” he said.

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Last week’s sighted whale was around two miles offshore, and was identified by its distinctive dorsal fin.