Rare bowhead whale spotted off Cornish coast

The whale was spotted off the coast of Marazion, near Penzance.

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A rare species of whale has been spotted near the Cornish coast this week.

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British Divers Marine Life Rescue trustee Dave Jarvis saw the bowhead whale near Penzance. 

It is only the second ever UK sighting of a bowhead whale- the first was seen in February 2015 off the Isles of Scilly.

The whale is thought to be approximately 23ft (7m) long. Bowhead whales can grow up to 65ft (20m), so the whale is likely to be a juvenile. The Sea Watch Foundation said both sightings could be the same animal.

Last week, a whale was spotted off the coast of Brittany, in northern France, and the Foundation believes that this was again the same whale.

Initial reports suggested the sighting may have been of a humpback whale, but the bowhead’s distinctive jawline confirmed that it was the rare species.

The whales tend to be found around two thousand miles further north, deep in the Arctic Circle.

Dr Peter Evans, Founder of Sea Watch Foundation, says global warming is having an effect on arctic species.

“One possible explanation is that ice melt is causing the ice to fragment, forming icebergs and pack ice to drift south.”

He added that the population of bowhead whales near Greenland has increased in the last few years, so that may also explain why it appeared so far from its normal habitat.

Whalers heavily targeted bowhead whales before commercial whaling was stopped and made illegal.

There are only around 15,000 bowhead whales globally, with around 3,500 near Greenland.

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The species can live for up to 200 years, making it possibly the longest-living marine mammal.