Essex

Pilot whales spotted off Essex coast

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Media captionExperts are trying to herd the whales back out to deeper water

A pod of pilot whales spotted off the Essex coast are being herded out to sea by marine experts.

The 40-strong group is a mile offshore between Jaywick and Brightlingsea. The mammals are not often seen close to the coast, a British Divers Marine Life Rescue spokesman said.

The pod was initially spotted off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast last week, and near Kent at the weekend.

Members of the public have been asked to keep their distance.

"We don't want to whales to get spooked by noises, as that could cause them to strand," the spokesman said.

It is believed some of the whales in the pod are young.

Image copyright Stacey Belbin
Image caption Photographs of the whales were captured by Stacey Belbin who runs boat trips
Image copyright Stacey Belbin
Image caption She spotted the pod near St Lawrence Bay before it made its way out to Bench Head

The area where they have been sheltering, near the Blackwater Estuary, has a number of mud and sand flats, which could lead to the whales becoming trapped when the tide goes out.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue and Essex Police's marine unit are using their boats to try to herd the whales back out to deeper water.

Pilot whales are usually found in waters around Scotland, and in oceans around the world, but are not often spotted in southern England, the spokesman said.

Image copyright Stacey Belbin
Image caption The 40-strong pod has been seen along the east coast of England

Stacey Belbin, who runs boat trips in the area, said she saw the pod at Thirslet and Stone, near St Lawrence Bay, before they made their way out on the tide to the Bench Head, near Brightlingsea, after passing Mersea Island.

"We watched as they rounded up the fish as a pod to feast in the shallow water before heading off into deep seas," she said.

"It was a truly amazing sight, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Image copyright Stacey Belbin
Image caption Whale pods are not often spotted in southern England, residing much further north in Scotland
Image copyright Stacey Belbin
Image caption Stacey Belbin said the whales were a "truly amazing sight"

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