A giant 50ft fin whale was washed up on the beach at Camber Sands, east Sussex, yesterday.
Volunteers from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue were on the scene within 25 minutes of being notified, but the creature had already died.
The BDMLR director, Tony Woodley, said the animal had a damaged dorsal fin and had serious propeller wounds. He was unable to confirm whether the animal had died from a boat strike or had sustained the injuries after dying at sea.
“We will be sending samples of the whale to Dr Paul Jepson, a veterinary pathologist working for the Zoological Society of London,” he said. “He carried out the post mortem of the whale that died in the Thames last year, so will be able to tell us more.”
Fin whales, the second largest animals in world after blue whales, can grow to more than 70ft long.
They are listed as “vulnerable” on the world conservation union (IUCN) Red List of threatened species. In the past, their numbers have been severely depleted by commercial whaling.
Last month, Iceland resumed whaling and has since killed at least seven fin whales, despite opposition from 24 countries.
Fin whales are known to live around the British Isles, but are not often seen because they inhabit deep waters. Six fin whales have been stranded on UK shores since 2004.
“They feed off tiny zooplankton and tend to go where their food goes,” Gill Bell, a wildlife officer for the Marine Conservation Society, said. “When the coastal waters warm up in summer and are full of nutrients, the whales may come in to the shore.”
Mr Woodley said there were “many threats facing whales, including noise pollution, whaling and marine traffic”.