Page last updated at 09:17 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Fin whales spotted near Scillies

Fin whale
The whales were spotted close to the islands' coastline

Two fin whales, the world's second-largest mammal and an endangered species, have been spotted off the Isles of Scilly.

The animals were photographed by a marine biologist two miles from the coast last week.

Marijke de Boer, from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said she thought the whales were heading to Iceland when she saw them.

She said it was "unusual" to see them so close to shore.

Ms De Boer said: "It's such a delight and a privilege to see these animals in the UK.

"I've seen them in the last three winters so I have the feeling that these fin whales come and and visit our waters and, uniquely, come very close to the shore.

"The ones I saw were having a rest, there was one which I think was fast asleep, it was just lolling on the surface.

"We saw the blow hole and a very long back."

In January the Icelandic government set a new quota to catch 150 fin whales annually.

The increase has angered conservation groups because only seven were caught during the previous three seasons.

Fin Whales are born 21ft (6m) long and can grow to be 85ft (26m).

They weigh between 30-80 tonnes and consume up to 35 grams of food for every kilogramme of body weight.

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