14-metre-long dead whale on southern Spanish beach

by Lorraine Williamson
dead fin whale

MALAGA – A huge whale carcass has been found on a beach in Estepona, in the province of Málaga, Andalucia. The dead fin whale, a cetacean about 14 metres long, was spotted by a walker. The find led to great commotion in the resort and much activity on social media.  

The dead fin whale is being studied by experts from the Spanish Centre for the Conservation of Endangered Marine Species (CREMA) at the Aula del Mar, the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), and the Andalucian government. The fin whale is the second-largest cetacean after the blue whale. It is characterised by its brownish-grey colour over much of its body, and by its long and slender silhouette. Furthermore, it can weigh up to 70 tonnes.  

Dead for some time 

The fish has been dead for many days. However, its body is still intact and extremely swollen due to gas,” explains José Luis Mons, director of CREMA. This is because the body is already in an advanced state of decomposition. Mons estimates that the animal may have been dead for more than ten days and may have entered the bay of Estepona via the Strait of Gibraltar. Members of CREMA, as well as the Junta de Andalucía and the operational services of Estepona town council, are working to remove the animal. The local police are in charge of surveillance to keep the stream of curious onlookers at bay. Investigators are going to take tissue samples to determine the animal’s state of health before death and the possible causes of death. 

What happens to the corpse? 

The corpse is expected to be buried nearby, with permission from the regional Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment. It is expected that efforts will be made to conserve the skeleton so that it can be exhibited. Another option is for the whale to be burned, but that depends on what is determined by the municipality’s health protocol.  

The expert acknowledges that the discovery of the dead whale is remarkable, especially for the province of Malaga. Every year there are at most one or two such along the entire Andalucian coastline.  

Relation with dead dolphins? 

The CREMA is on extra alert after the discovery of this whale. The bodies of three dolphins have already turned up on the coast of the city of Málaga, and dead dolphins have also been found in Torremolinos, Marbella, and Nerja. Recent storms have driven the bodies to the coast. It is still being investigated whether this is a pure coincidence or whether there is another cause for these deaths.  

Related post: Fin whales spotted off the Spanish coast

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