Wildlife watchers stunned to count over 80 minke whales off Staithes on the Yorkshire coast in just one morning

Wildlife watchers taking part in a cetacean count off the Yorkshire coast have recorded 81 minke whales in just one morning.

Birder Ian Boustead, who took part in the count near Staithes on Sunday morning, posted on Twitter: "A minke whale count from Old Nab, Staithes, this morning produced a total of EIGHTY ONE minke whales, mostly between Old Nab and Kettleness."

Sightings of minkes have become increasingly common off Yorkshire and there is now a growing whale-watching 'industry' aimed at visitors to the area, with several converted fishing boats offering tours.

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In 2021, Staithes-based operator Yorkshire Coast Nature confirmed that whales had been spotted in late May, far earlier than their usual return period in July.

The fishing village of StaithesThe fishing village of Staithes
The fishing village of Staithes

Cetacean tourism has boomed on the Yorkshire coast in recent years thanks to increasing numbers of whales - which follow mackerel shoals to feed - being seen as a well as the permanent residence of a pod of dolphins that has migrated south from Scottish waters.

In the summer of 2020, 30 per cent more surveys of cetacean sightings were submitted by volunteers watching from the shore, with 162 completed compared to 124 in 2019. Most of the whales seen were minkes, but Jono Leadley from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust also filmed a humpback breaching the water off Flamborough Head in a video that went viral.

There are now 40 'citizen scientist' volunteers who have been trained to record whale, dolphin and porpoise sightings.

There have been increases in minke sightings since 2015.

Yet four minke whales came to grief off Whitby in 2020, when their carcasses washed ashore after they were killed by entanglement in fishing wire.