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Nature / First local sighting of beluga whale in nearly 25 years

Kristofer Wilson caught this image of the whale off Unst.

EAGLE-eyed nature lovers caught sight of what is thought to be a beluga whale off Unst yesterday (Tuesday), which would be the first time one has been spotted in Shetland waters since 1997.

The white whale, which is usually found in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, was seen around Norwick and Lamba Ness.

They are rarely spotted in UK waters.

Scottish Natural Heritage’s Karen Hall said the footage of the white whale off Unst had the hallmarks of a beluga – a blunt head, no dorsal, and it looked about the right size.


The first report of yesterday’s beluga came from Shona Laurenson after her mum Tonya and daughter Ella Mae spotted something white in the sea.

Shona’s family, including her auntie Andrea and cousin Miley, were in Norwick on holiday, and it was the last day of their trip.

“After looking for a few seconds I realised it was a whale so I took out my phone and started videoing,” Shona said.

“My auntie got some videos too. I did think beluga whale, but just thought they were not here so it couldn’t be.

“We watched for about 15 minutes but it moved further away. We went back down to the house and the rest of the family and my uncle Mark went to the island in the middle of the Norwick beach to watch more and I went with the car to get internet and post the videos to get an ID.

“We were very excited as we all like to see the orcas and other whales. When we were sure it was a beluga and there had only been two recorded sightings before in Shetland we were very excited. I hope it hangs around and more folk get to see it.”

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The last confirmed sighting of a beluga in Shetland was also in waters around Unst, back in 1997, while another was seen in Hoswick/Levenwick a year prior.

These are the only two confirmed sightings in Shetland on record.

Beluga whales have a distinctive look. Photo: Javier Yaya Tur (CAC, S. A.)

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