There have been repeated reports via the Shetland Sea Mammal Group of a humpback whale travelling southwards along the west coast of mainland Shetland since the 15th July. The most recent sighting of the whale came on the 15th August. Since the start of these reports the animal has been spotted at Culswick, off Scalloway, Hildasay, West Burra and now Maywick.
The humpback whale is one of the easiest to identify due to its distinctive tail fluke, knobbly head and large pectoral fins. Humpback whales often pass through the western English Channel, northern Irish Sea and Shetland whilst on their migration route from Africa to feeding grounds in Iceland. They often seem to remain in the same area for some time, as illustrated by this particular animal. Individual animals can be identified by patterns on the tail fluke and this particular animal has an unusually-shaped dorsal fin which may be also be identifiable.
Humpback populations were severely depleted after many years of hunting. However, numbers of the North Atlantic populations appear to be on the increase and sightings on the UK coastline are becoming increasingly regular.