Mystery as fourth whale carcass washes up on beach in weeks as new virus blamed

Another whale has been found washed up on a beach – leaving experts puzzled over what’s causing the “abnormal spike in deaths”.

The fin whale’s corpse, which measured nearly 16 metres and weighed an estimated 10 tonnes, was found near Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez, France on Friday.

Marine biologists are now investigating the deaths of at least six whales found washed up on France's western shores in the past six weeks.

The latest finding showed no apparent sign of having been hit by a ship or caught in a trawler's net.

Researchers on Monday used a mechanical digger and long knives to dissect the fin whale.

They took samples they believe might reveal evidence of a viral pathogen.

The fin whale is the second-largest species of whale after the blue whale.

Experts say between three and – at most – 10 whales are found dead on France’s beach in an average year.

Willy Dabin, a researcher from the Pelagis Observatory working on the corpse, said: "We have what is almost an epidemic or, at any rate, an abnormal spike in deaths.

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"The question lurking in the background is: are humans a contributing factor in their capacity to upset the environment?

"Either by impacting food availability or polluting the living environment, which could leave the whales more vulnerable to disease."

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The whales have all been malnourished and shown evidence of haemorrhaging in the cardiac and respiratory systems.

Officials had to put guards near the whale carcass at the weekend to keep residents away from it.

One local man said: "It's disgusting.

"I don't know how they're going to remove it. Cut it up piece by piece?"

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