There are grave concerns for a pod of 10 sperm whales stranded on the East Yorkshire coast.
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said four of the group in difficulty near Withernsea have been confirmed to be still alive but all are believed to be in a poor nutritional condition.
At least two of the animals have been washed up on the beach.
The BDMLR, which was called out at 8.30am on Christmas Eve, said the North Sea is a difficult environment for sperm whales as the shallow water has few of the deep water squids they usually feed on, and they rarely survive beach strandings due to their size.
The organisation said it was not currently attempting any rescue due to poor weather and rough sea conditions.
Police have warned the public to stay away.
A BDMLR spokeswoman said: “The number of whales currently stranded is 10. They are in shallow water and four have been confirmed still alive.
“We believe it to be a pod of juvenile males, all in very poor nutritional condition.
“Due to the current weather conditions and rough seas, our team will remain on land observing from a safe distance.
“Due to the size of the sperm whale – males reaching around 20 metres long and weighing up to 80 tonnes – it’s not possible to move these animals once stranded, and due to their size they rarely survive long once on land.”
The alarm was raised with the coastguard after members of the public said they believed seven whales were stranded close to the beach at Waxholme.
People who filmed the flailing animals expressed their concern on social media.
The BDMLR said sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales and are usually found in deep offshore waters.
They can dive up to 2,000 metres in search of food, which is mostly large or medium-sized squid which is not abundant in the North Sea.
A spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “Just before 8.30am today HM Coastguard received a 999 call from a member of the public with a report of seeing a number of whales on the shoreline at Withernsea beach.
“Coastguard rescue teams from Withernsea, Hornsea and Easington have been sent.
“The relevant authorities have been informed including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Receiver of Wreck, the local authority and the British Divers Marine Life Rescue who are also on the scene to assess the situation.
“The number of whales involved is yet to be confirmed but initial reports suggest it may be up to seven.
“Members of the public are asked to stay away from the scene to allow the authorities to work safely.”
Humberside Police Chief Superintendent Darren Downs said: “I understand the public interest in the incident but I would urge people to stay away from the area to allow the teams from HM Coastguard to manage what is an extremely distressing scene.
“I would also remind people that there is a risk to themselves and others as crowds gather to witness the scene. The Covid-19 pandemic remains a high risk to public health, people should not gather in groups as there is a danger of transmission amongst the crowds.
“Please stay away from the area and support your emergency services in dealing with the situation throughout the day.”