A DEAD whale has been spotted off the coast of Portland.

The whale, believed to be a fin whale, was seen floating at the top of the water on Wednesday.

Fin whales are the second largest of the species, after the blue whale, and are rare to the UK.

They are especially rare off the coast of Dorset, as they are not resident to the Channel.

Rob Deaville, of the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) said: “It looks like it could either be a fin whale or a minke whale, although minke whales tend to have a white stripe on the fin and this whale looks to be darker in colour.

“Going by the photograph, which is quite grainy, I’d say it is likely to be a fin whale.

“They are usually found in deeper water and are uncommon in the UK, let alone Dorset. Last year, there were 600 strandings reported to us and four of those were fin whales.

“You might be able to find them south of Ireland or west of Cornwall, where the water is deeper, but they’re not very common and they’re certainly not resident in the channel.

“Whales face many threats because of our activities including ship strikes and becoming entangled in nets.

“But there is nothing to say this particular whale didn’t die of natural causes and may have blown in.

“We can’t be certain.”

A spokesman for marine charity the Seawatch Foundation added: “This stranded animal is one of the baleen whales, famed for taking in food with large gulps of water, enabled by their expanding ventral pleats which are visible in this photograph.

“We’ve not yet heard from the observer about the size of the animal in order to ascertain a species ID and it’s difficult to ascertain any characteristics from this image, although it certainly looks rather large.

“Recently, extremely large fin and sei whales, up to 24 and 21 metres respectively, have been spotted in the English Channel off Devon, not so far away as the giant fin whale swims.

“Usually found in our deeper waters, they are more commonly seen when they wash up dead.”

People are asked to contact CSIP on 0800 6520333 if they find a whale washed ashore.