'Very lucky' sighting of Killer Whale captured off UK coast for first time in 16 years

Orca swimming

The orca was seen five times by different people (stock)

Holly Bishop

By Holly Bishop

Published: 14/09/2023

- 19:33

Updated: 14/09/2023

- 19:35

Orcas were last spotted in Yorkshire in 2007

A killer whale has been spotted just two miles off the UK coast for the first time in over 15 years.

The “very lucky” sighting of the orca happened a couple of miles away from the Grandstand viewpoint at Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve in Bridlington.

Members of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) noticed the killer whale on Monday.

They said: “Off Bempton at 14.55pm an orca (killer whale) headed south, 2-3 miles off Grandstand. Huge tall vertical dorsal. Seen five times by numerous visitors, no sightings reported since.”

Grandstand viewpoint where the orca was spotted

Grandstand viewpoint where the orca was spotted

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

Birdwatcher Andy Hood said that the killer whale was surrounded by minke whales, and they appeared to be travelling in a pack.

The orca is believed to be part of a group of whales which live off of the Scottish islands Shetley and Orkney.

The appearance marks the first time an orca has been seen off the UK coast since 2007.

Orcas are rarely spotted in the North Sea, according to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

RSPB Bempton Cliffs site manager Dave O’Hara told the Yorkshire Post: “We were very lucky that there were people in the right place at the right time. Bull orcas have a high dorsal fin that is very distinctive. It was seen about five times before it swam south, and there was then a great rush to Flamborough Bird Observatory, but it wasn’t seen again.

“There may have been females too – we are not certain that there was just one because they are social animals, so there could have been others. Females are less visible,” he continued.

“It most likely came from Shetland or Orkney, as they are occasionally seen on the east coast and there’s been an increase in sightings. They’re very mobile and have the ability to range long distances.”

O’Hara believed the spotting in Yorkshire was a positive sign for nature as it gives hope that fish in the North Sea are becoming more fertile.

He said that he is expecting that many people will visit Bempton to try and catch a glimpse of the black and white creatures.

Last summer, two killer whales were spotted in the Irish Sea.

The two male orcas, nicknamed Joe Coe and Aquarius were noticed by a conservation group at Bray head off the coast of County Kerry in July 2022.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group confirmed that the whales had been spotted: “On reviewing the video and images sent to IWDG, we can confirm they are the pair of adult males known as John Coe and Aquarius who are the sole survivors from the Scottish West Coast Community Group, who hail from the Hebrides in Scotland.”

Orca swimming

The orca spotting has been seen as a positive sign for nature, as it gives hope that fish in the North Sea are becoming more fertile.

Wikimedia Commons

The news comes as rare dolphins were spotted last month off the coast of Cornwall.

AK Wildlife Cruises, who spotted the creatures, and tourists and crew were left in awe at the rare type of dolphin.

The Sea Watch Foundation said: “The hybrids have a combination of features from both species. They have very distinct black and white stripes running across their flanks that are a distinct feature of the striped dolphin, but they have the distinct hourglass pattern and colouring of a common dolphin.

Last year, a shark was spotted off the south west coast of England.

Plymouth local Sam Booth was shocked when they spotted the shark swimming in Sutton Harbour in April 2022

The shark was believed to be the starry smoothhound breed, which came as a relief to locals who feared it could be a great white.

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