The dead fin whale that was discovered on the bow of a ship in the port of Terneuzen on Tuesday was probably still alive when the animal was struck.

That is the conclusion of Utrecht University, which conducted an investigation into the cause of death.

The mammal, about 15 meters long, had eaten just before death, researchers say.

"We found undigested food in the esophagus of the fin whale. The fact that it did not end up in the stomach of the fin whale indicates that it was probably eaten just before or during death. This indicates that the fin whale was probably not sick." , explains biologist Lonneke IJsseldijk.

The fin whale is a protected species.

According to IJsseldijk, shipping is one of the biggest threats to the animal.

The whale was found on the bulb of the ship.

That's the lower part of the bow.

At the place where the animal came into contact with the ship, the researchers found a large subcutaneous hemorrhage.

"That is a sign that the fin whale was still alive when it came into contact with the ship," says IJsseldijk.

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Whale carcass lies on quay in Terneuzen after collision with ship