A killer whale has been found up washed up on the English shore for the first time in nearly two decades.

  

The 15-foot-long orca was discovered with a stomach full of plastic in the salt marshes on the eastern coast, between Lincolnshire and Norfolk, according to the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP).

The organisation said a ‘large fragment of plastic material’ was discovered in the young orca’s body, however they believe this was unlikely to be its cause of death.

This discovery marks the first confirmed stranding of a killer whale in England and Wales nearly 20 years, the Zoological Society of London has confirmed.

Meanwhile, the CSIP cites just four other reports of orcas having washed up on the coastline of England and Wales since its programme, which assess stranded cetaceans like whales, basking sharks and dolphins, began back in 1990.

As per the Independent, the CSIP said:

This was a markedly unusual stranding event.

Rob Deaville and Matt Perkins, from the Zoological Society of London, took blubber, liver, muscle and kidney samples from the whale’s body. Its body was mainly still intact, apart from some areas of decomposition, which suggests it may have died a number of weeks ago.

The CSIP said:

Killer whales are a priority species for the project given the conservation pressure that they’re under — as apex predators, they’re unfortunately exposed to high levels of legacy chemical pollutants.

The samples collected from the marine mammal will ‘prove hugely valuable in future research’, according to the organisation.

Experts say the number of orcas found along the coast has in fact dramatically decreased in recent years. Meanwhile, researchers from the Zoological Society and Aarhus University found that UK seas were one of the most polluted in the world, warning this could lead to a ‘killer whale apocalypse’.

A killer whale, believed to the be UK’s last, was found dead in 2016 having been trapped in netting on a Scottish island. However, a post mortem examination found the creature had high levels of a banned toxic chemical in her body, which was likely the cause of death.

Orcas are a priority species for research conducted by the Zoological Society, because of the fact they’re top predators and therefore can absorb significant concentrations of marine pollutants, which can accumulate as animals move up the food chain.

However, experts say there was no evidence of recent feeding as the whale’s stomach was largely empty.