British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (photo: Steve Marsh)
British Divers Marine Rescue


2012-09-02 13:42:26

Latest on whale stranding in Scotland

26 whales strand in Fife, Scotland, another 24 close to shore.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue out-of-hours coordinator received a call from the Forth Coastguard at 7.10 am on Sunday 2nd September about a mass stranding of dolphins at Pittenweem, Fife at the base of steep cliffs.  Gareth Norman, the charity’s coordinator for the area, arrived on the scene and confirmed that they were in fact 26 pilot whales, 13 of which had already died and probably only nine of the remaining animals were likely to survive. The live animals are currently being given first aid by the charity volunteers and their condition is being assessed by veterinary surgeons.

Teams of volunteer medics from the charity were mobilised, with specialist rescue pontoons being moved to the location from across Scotland, Newcastle and Cumbria.  Over 30 BDMLR medics are attending and being assisted by an additional 25 from other emergency service organisations including the Coastguard, Fire and Rescue, Police and SSPCA.

Mid morning, reports came in of another 24 pilot whales in the shallows 3 miles along the coast at Cellardyke. BDMLR medics are observing these and hoping that they will not strand as the tide is now rising, with high tide at around 4.30pm.

The rescue is on-going and further updates will be provided when available. No photos are available at present.  BBC video here.

Update as at 17.15hrs Sunday September 2nd 2012

Out of the thirteen whales that were still alive, three sadly died naturally.  The other ten have been refloated, with two having turned back into the harbour and the rest waiting  at the harbour entrance. Rescue operation continues.

Update as at 19.00hrs Sunday September 2nd 2012

All ten whales have now been reported as having left the harbour.

The two that had turned back re-stranded but BDMLR volunteers were able to get them straight back into the water. One was in difficulty and listing to one side, but the whales from the main pod swam beside it, physically keeping it upright until it could right itself. Once it was balanced and able to swim without support, the pod all swam strongly out towards open water.

It is hoped that they will turn north soon to return to the deeper water but observers along the southern coast of the Forth are on alert if they are seen again.

Update as at 13.00hrs Monday September 3rd 2012

Reports came in from the Harbour Master at Port Leith of a pod of around ten pilot whales in the area close to shore.  It is likely that this is the pod of rescued whales from Sunday's mass stranding at Pittenweem.  If this is the case, then the animals headed South West yesterday rather than moving out into the North Sea and heading North as hoped.

One of these later stranded just outside the port and has died naturally.  The rest of the pod has now turned away and is out of sight, so it is hoped again that they will head out to deep sea and North.

Update as at 17.15hrs Monday September 3rd 2012

The pod of whales has now been reported as being close to the Forth railway bridge, west of where they had been earlier today so not in an ideal area.  As they have now headed further into the Forth, it is hoped that they are just gathering their strength before moving off and out, hopefully to head north to deeper water.

Reports suggest that the numbers have increased and that the rescued animals may well have reunited with the other 24 whales that did not strand and are therefore healthier and may be able to lead the rest out of danger. Later reports however confirmed that there were just the rescued whales in the pod.

Update as at 16.15hrs Tuesday September 4th 2012

It has been confirmed that there is still a pod of pilot whales close to the Forth Bridge, but as reports of numbers vary between 10 and 24, it is difficult to ascertain whether these are the rescued group, the group that did not strand, or a combination of the two.

The whales are not stressed and seem settled at the moment, with a sea state of 4-5 keeping pleasure boats at bay.  Last night the actions of pleasure craft that had been far too close to the whales caused considerable concern, with one individual having been seen to get close enough to touch the whales and ride between individuals.

Pleasure craft owners are being asked not to approach the pod as any form of stress may either split the group or cause them to strand and deliberately disturbing whales and dolphins is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.



BDMLR would like to thank all who have helped on this difficult rescue and once again are greatful for the support and understanding shown by all.

(The attached photo courtesy of Rob Stewart shows the whales prior to being put upright and first aid commencing.)

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