‘Fish’ washed up in bay belongs to HM the Queen

Dolphins and porpoises
Dolphins and porpoises

A “Royal fish” found washed up on the beach at Heysham at the weekend is thought to be a member of the porpoise family.

The creature was found dead on Saturday June 6 by a member of the public, who contact HM Coastguard at Holyhead.

Under UK law, whales, sturgeons and porpoises are Royal fish, and when taken from the sea or found washed up become the property of the country’s monarch.

Adam Bradbury, Coastguard Station Officer in Morecambe said: “On Saturday evening Holyhead Coastguard Operations Centre received a report of a dead Royal fish on the shore at Heysham.

“When Royal fish are washed onto crown or public land HM Coastguard are sent to locate, report and arrange for disposal with the local authority.

“The animal was one of the porpoise/dolphin species and Lancaster City Council were notified to dispose of it once measurements had been taken by Coastguard Rescue Officers.”

The monarch’s right to royal fish was recognized by a statute enacted during the reign of Edward II.

It is said that the “superior excellence” of whale and sturgeon made them uniquely suited for the monarch’s use. Sir Matthew Hale added porpoise as one of the Royal fish.

There have been many instances of creatures of the deep being washed up in Morecambe Bay.

According to Lancashire and Chesire Fauna Society, an eight tonne, female fin whale was found dead at Heysham Harbour in November 2000. It was buried on Salt Ayre tip.

In September 1980, a 7m Sei Whale swam into the mouth of the River Lune at Sunderland Point. The whale died but the skeleton was preserved and displayed at Lancaster University. In 2001, the same type of whale was seen swimming up the river Lune but became stranded and died at Pilling Sands on September 29 2001.

In 1938, three humpback whales were seen “leaping and playing” in the lower part of Heysham lake, a quarter of a mile offshore, by Dr FW Hogarth of Morecambe.

Dr Hogarth also reported killer whales being “seen fairly regularly at the mouth of the Lune” but the only record to back this up was an undated report of a fisherman describing a 10m cetacean with “piebald” colouring jumping 1.5m out of the water.

Most recently, in 2009, a 40ft minke whale washed up at Morecambe, before being repeatedly washed up with the tide around the bay area.