For the first time in almost 20 years an orca has been found washed up on English shores.

The 15-foot-long (5 metre) killer whale was found in the salt marshes on the eastern coast, between Lincolnshire and Norfolk, with a stomach full of plastic according to the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP).

The organisation stated that a ‘large fragment of plastic material’ was lodged in the young orca’s body, however this is not believed to be the cause of death.


This marks the first confirmed finding of a killer whale washed up in either England or Wales in nearly 20 years, the Zoological Society of London has confirmed.

The CSIP cites just four other reports of orcas having washed up on the coastline of England and Wales since its programme, which assess stranded cetaceans like whales, basking sharks and dolphins, began back in 1990.

As per the Independent, the CSIP said:

This was a markedly unusual stranding event.

Rob Deaville and Matt Perkins, from the Zoological Society of London, took blubber, liver, muscle and kidney samples from the whale’s body. Its body was mainly still intact, apart from some areas of decomposition, which suggests it may have died a number of weeks ago.

The CSIP said:

Killer whales are a priority species for the project given the conservation pressure that they’re under — as apex predators, they’re unfortunately exposed to high levels of legacy chemical pollutants.

Samples collected from the unlucky marine mammal will ‘prove hugely valuable in future research’, according to the organisation.

Experts say the number of orcas found along the coast has dramatically decreased in recent years. Meanwhile, researchers from the Zoological Society and Aarhus University found that UK seas are some of the most polluted in the world, and warn that this could lead to a ‘killer whale apocalypse’.


An orca, at the time believed to the be UK’s last, was found dead in 2016 after becoming trapped in netting on a Scottish island. However, a post mortem examination found the creature had high levels of an outlawed toxic chemical in her body, which was more likely the cause of death.

Orcas are a priority species for research conducted by the Zoological Society, as they’re top predators and therefore can absorb significant concentrations of marine pollutants, which can accumulate as animals move up the food chain.

In this specific case experts say there was unfortunately no evidence of recent feeding as the whale’s stomach was mostly empty.