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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
Hopes fading for stranded whale
A whale has become stranded in shallow water off the coast of Larne
A whale has become stranded in shallow water off the coast of Larne
Hopes are fading for a whale stranded in Larne Lough, County Antrim.

The mammal was spotted near Larne harbour at the entrance of the lough on Tuesday. Since then it has been unable to find its way back out to open sea.

An operation to guide the animal - originally thought to be a minke whale but now described as from a "large whale species" - out is under way.

The animal is about 600 yards from the open sea and conservationists fear it could die if it does not get out.

Earlier on Wednesday, hopes were raised that the animal had made its way back to sea after it had not been spotted for several hours.

However, it resurfaced at about midday further up the lough close to a cement works.

The animal is swimming in tight circles, which experts say is a sign of confusion.

Vets have been put on standby in case the whale beaches.

'Looks weaker'

Ian Enlander from the Environment and Heritage Service said the whale looked much weaker on Wednesday.

"It was beginning to roll and the dorsal fin was falling over somewhat," he said.

"Undoubtedly, it is in a stressed state and not in the kind of deep water environment that it is normally used to."

A team from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has been trying to guide the whale back out to sea.

Peter Steele of the group has asked boats to stay away from the Larne Lough area as they fear noise will confuse the mammal further.

On Tuesday, the whale became trapped behind some of the legs of Ballylumford power station, which is situated on the opposite side of the lough facing Larne harbour.

Onlookers at Ballylumford harbour spotted the whale in the same position on Wednesday morning.

Scientists believe the current heatwave may be contributing to unusually large numbers of whales and dolphins off the UK coastline.

It was originally thought that the mammal was a minke whale, but the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group now believes it is more likely to be a fin or a sei whale.


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SEE ALSO
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19 Jul 06 |  Northern Ireland

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