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Killer whales sighted just 100 yards off UK shore

Orcas have been spotted off the British coastline.

Several people have reportedly seen the whales, a rare sight in the area, off the Cornish coast between the popular tourist towns of Newquay and Padstow over the last 10 days.

Ocean scientist Dom Clarke, 25, saw what he believes was a mother and calf near Trevose Head, five miles from Padstow while walking along the cliff.

He said he saw them heading south towards Newquay, which is around 10 miles away and home to a colony of grey seals, a popular food source for the whales.

He told how he came across a man with binoculars who asked him what species of whale he thought they were.

"I thought 'wow, that is pretty unusual to see', so I grabbed the binoculars," he said.

"At the time they were heading south along the coast about 100 metres off the headland. It was pretty special."

He added that a bird watcher had said he spotted the whales near Trevose the following day.

Killer whales (Orcinus orca), also known as orcas, can grow up to 32 feet in length and weigh up to 9 tonnes. The distinctive triangular dorsal fin can grow up to six feet high.

They are mainly found around Iceland, Norway and northern Scotland, but occasionally some are seen as far south as the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Portugal and east into the Mediterranean.

According to the SeaWatch Foundation, killer whale sightings are rare in the waters off the coast of South West England, with most sightings between March and September.

In September last year, a holidaymaker at the Bedruthan Steps Hotel at Mawgan Porth, around eight miles south of Trevose, spotted a pod of four killer whales while eating breakfast in the cliff-top hotel.

Mr Clarke, who runs a rockpool exploration and education company, Explore the Shore, suggested that the whales could have been feeding locally.

"At the moment there must be a lot of fish inshore. And that day there was also a really huge shoal of porpoises about a kilometre off the headland," he said.

Angie Gall, marine conservation officer with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said that it is thought the whales merely pass through the area en route to more northerly waters around Scotland.

"There is only evidence of one 'kill' made by killer whales in Cornish waters and that was a basking shark," she said.

Basking sharks are known to congregate in huge numbers off the Cornish coast in the summer and are a familiar sight for tourists in the area.

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