Concern over recent whale strandings

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Following two separate incidents of whale strandings this month Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has requested a full report to try and determine the causes.

On the weekend of September 2-3, a total of 22 long finned pilot whales died after beaching themselves between Pittenweem and Anstruther in Fife.

Meanwhile on September 14, a deceased sei whale was found on a beach at Eliot near Arbroath, with initial investigations suggesting natural causes.

Initial reports for the pilot whales suggest no obvious health concerns or physical injuries. Scientists at SAC (Scottish Agricultural College) are taking forward a full investigation into both incidents, using evidence gained from post mortems, with the results to be made available as soon as possible.

Mr Lochhead said:

“It is deeply distressing when we hear reports of whales dying, particularly mass stranding incidents such as we saw earlier this month in Fife. In spite of the valiant and persistent efforts of volunteers from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, 22 of 26 animals could not be saved and sadly died.

 “The reasons why whale strandings take place, be it natural causes or linked to human activities, are not known. The initial findings do not point towards any obvious health problems, however I hope that by examining and testing the carcasses, SAC will be able to shed light on this concerning issue.

 “Scotland’s seas are blessed with many marine mammals, including more than 20 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. It is our responsibility, where possible, to do all we can to protect these wonderful and popular species.”

 Andrew Brownlow, Veterinary Investigation Officer with SAC said:

 “There are many reasons why whales come close to shore and strand, and we plan to investigate as thoroughly as possible. The species involved are quite different in terms of ecology, physiology and behaviour, so it would be unusual to find a single cause for these strandings.

 “Initial results on the pilot whales suggest most were healthy. Strandings are sadly not uncommon with social cetacean species, where many animals appear to strand because they follow a sick, lost or panicked individual.”