The animal, which is the first stranded orca in England and Wales since 2001 was discovered just before Christmas.
The Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) responded to the animal, found stranded in the Wash, last Friday to investigate the remains. The animal, only the fifth orca recorded stranded in England and Wales since 1990, was found to be significantly decomposed externally.
Scientists from CSIP collected a series of samples of the animal in the hope of understanding more about how and why it died, but it is unlikely that a definitive cause of death will be established. However, the rarity of this type of incident means that the samples will be of keen interest to conservationists and we hope that the team at CSIP will be able to learn a lot more about the killer whales in our part of the world.
Though the cause of death may never be clear, killer whales in European waters are facing an array of threats, including our last resident killer whale population, found around the Hebrides. In particular, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), an industrial pollutant, is causing widespread issues and is likely to be responsible for the decline in killer whales around the west of Scotland.
A female from this population was found dead in 2016 after becoming entangled in fishing lines, and PCB concentration in the animal's body were the highest ever recorded, according to the study conducted on the animal's remains at the time.
PCB's represent a significant threat to killer whales globally, particularly those found near industrialised areas. It is estimated that 80% of global PCB's have no been destroyed, and more action is needed by governments to meet their targets and prevent orcas and other species suffering collapse.