Start Bay humpback whale continues to draw crowds to Torcross

By Chris Derrick in Environment

The Start Bay humpback is still enjoying its time in the South Hams, as people travel from far and wide to catch a glimpse of the enormous cetacean.

Hundreds of people have been turning up at Torcross, hoping to get a view of the rare whale - leading to boom times for what some have dubbed the “whaleconomy.”

Ellie Dixon from the Start Bay Inn in Torcross said: “It’s definitely been busier, with lots of whale watchers popping in throughout the day.”

Robert Hitchens from Torcross Boathouse agreed, saying the weekends have been “especially busy.”

Many have complained that South Hams District Council have failed to open the toilets in the Slapton Memorial Car Park - despite them being advertised as open from March. Last Friday, SHDC assured whale watchers that they would be opened later that day, although the doors were still locked on Tuesday afternoon.

The whale has been spotted numerous times over the last couple of weeks across Start Bay, but most commonly at the Strete Gate end of the Slapton Line.

Its most recent unconfirmed sighting, at the time of going to press, was at about 4pm on Tuesday evening.

The whale has been feeding surrounded by gannets and porpoises - with the Torcross line providing the ideal viewing platform for the spectacle.

There was a reported sighting of the whale off Paignton on Thursday, March 2 and it was seen swimming powerfully westwards about 2km offshore on Saturday, March 4.

Experts from British Divers Marine Life Rescue suggest it has probably been making the most of the available herring and moving back and forth following its food source.

As yet, the humpback has not been identified as a known individual - the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group in Ireland have confirmed it does not match any of the 78 humpbacks they have photos of.

The BDMLR are asking if anyone has good photos of the underside of the tail to please contact them to check the American records.

Pete Moore, from Forest and Beach in Beeson, who has been keeping a keen eye on the whale’s movements, explained: “We need to get some good pictures of the underside of its tale, so as to try and identify it.

“It’d be interesting to see if it is the same humpback whale that was spotted a little further up the coast near Dartmouth in 2015.”

Pete explained that “there’s still a good chance of seeing it” with the whale often seen feeding down the Strete Gate end in the late afternoon and early evening.

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