The animal was spotted close to the Thornton Bank area, some 25 kilometres off the West-Flemish port of Zeebrugge. A geologist was able to capture the whale on tape.
It's probably a young humpback, experts say based on the position and size of its tale. The animal has an estimated length of 10 metres, while adults can measure up to 15 metres. Early this year, a humpback was seen off the Dutch coast, but that was a different whale, it turns out.
Whale expert Jan Haelters told the VRT that the population of humpbacks is growing since a hunting ban was imposed. The animals are probably moving to other areas due to a shortage of food in their normal habitat. As a result, they are being spotted more frequently in areas where they normally wouldn't live.
Asked whether humpbacks can survive in the part of the North Sea between the British and Belgian coast, experts say that this is no problem. The sea is not deep here, but they don't need deep waters like for example sperm whales do. They can also find enough food.
The main problem are ships as the Channel is a busy shipping route. The coastal authorities in Ostend have informed shipping traffic about the presence of the humpback whale.