A dead sperm whale has been found floating south of the ruptured well that is spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, US scientists said late Wednesday.

It was the first dead sperm whale to be found since the April 20 Deepwater Horizons explosion that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The animal was found some 125 kilometres south of the well, in an area that has not been sullied by oil, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) could not rule out whether its death was oil related.

The whale may have been dead for several days or more even more than a week and likely drifted to where it was discovered.

Tests were being conducted to determine where the whale may have died and to rule out death by other causes, such as being struck by a ship.

Endangered marine mammals

Sperm whales are the only endangered marine mammals in the upper Gulf of Mexico and NOAA scientists have been worried about the effects of oil and dispersants being used to break up the oil on the animals.

Political anger toward British oil giant BP has increased dramatically in recent days, and chief executive Tony Hayward is to appear before a committee in the U.S. Congress on Thursday.

BP has agreed to set up a 20—billion—dollar fund to compensate local Gulf Coast businesses that have been devastated by the ongoing oil spill, U.S. President Barack Obama said after meeting earlier Wednesday with Mr. Hayward and BP Chairman Carl—Henric Svanberg at the White House.

BP also announced it would cancel all dividend payments to shareholders this year as it works to clean up the worst oil disaster in US history. More than 10 billion dollars in dividends were due to be paid out June 21.

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