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


2015-06-02 09:16:04

Latest News - Pilot Whale mass stranding on Skye

BDMLR volunteer medics and locals are currently involved in the rescue of a pod of pilot whales that have stranded on the Isle of Skye, near Staffin.

Having been alerted by HWDT and locals yesterday to pilot whales off Staffin at 16.30hrs yesterday (Monday June 1st), a team was tasked to observe the whales in case of problems.

This morning at around 04.00hrs our team on the island were told that a stranding was happening at Brogaig Bay.   21 animals had stranded, with two already dead.

The team were able to refloat 18 and one more, a pregnant female, was put in pontoons ready to refloat but sadly the calf was discovered to be stuck by a local vet attending the rescue. As this female would sadly not survive, a local marksman was called by the vet and she was humanely euthanised.

It was not possible to herd these animals out of the immediate area as having been already stressed from having stranded and been refloated, their activity would have been unpredictable and the risk of restranding too high.

Ultimately eleven of the refloated animals did restrand on Staffin Island itself and another 3 that had not fully stranded but were in the shallows were successfully pushed out into deeper water.  Two of the eleven restranded animals were found already dead and the remaining nine are being given first aid by the BDMLR team.  They are not in an easy position as have many have stranded awkwardly on rocks, meaning it is difficult to relieve the pressure on their bodies.

Update at 13.30 June 2nd 2015

BDMLR volunteers along with personnel from other agencies continue to give the nine surviving whales first aid with support from local people, but one whale is in a very bad way.  A few of these nine were refloated early from the island but came straight back in and restranded.  Of the five other animals refloated there are three currently swimming offshore and two have disappeared, so hopefully they have gone back to sea.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said the Scottish government was offering assistance to the effort to save the whales.

He said: "I am very concerned to hear about this stranding of pilot whales on Skye.  Marine Scotland and British Divers Marine Life Rescue are currently working hard to alleviate the situation.

"We have a patrol vessel and other staff on-site and I am being kept informed of the situation.  Sadly it appears that some of the whales have already died and the situation is becoming increasingly difficult as the outgoing tide is leaving the stranded animals out of the water."

Update at 16.30 June 2nd 2015

BDMLR Head Office has just been informed that sadly two more whales have been euthanised on the island as they had shown little improvement after ten hours of treatment.  These two had been assessed by a vet and due to a poor prognosis from the effects of the initial stranding combined with those of the second stranding, it was decided that the most humane outcome for the animals would be for their suffering to be ended. The vet was in no doubt that had they been refloated they would not have survived long.

Each of the remaining seven animals are being assessed in the hope that they may be fit enough to be refloated to join the whales that are currently free swimming and the team continues to give them first aid. One of these is in the shallows rather than on land.

Update at 21.45 June 2nd 2015

Earlier, the whale that had stayed in the shallows and been tended there recovered enough to swim away and out of view.  By 19.45 this evening, five further whales were successfully refloated on a rising tide, whilst the sixth took a little more time but was refloated soon after.  All refloated animals moved off and out of sight of numerous people monitoring their progress

BDMLR volunteers remain vigilent in the area overnight and will check the beaches regularly, but it is hoped that as the rescued whales were swimming strongly, they will have made it safely to open water.

Vets and pathologists from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, who assisted in the rescue, will perform post mortem examinations on the bodies that have been recovered and results will be published by them in due course.

This has not been the easiest of rescues and the dedication and actions of the BDMLR volunteers have received praise from grateful members of the public all over the world.

Many thanks to all who have been involved in this rescue - BDMLR volunteers, vets, MCA, SMASS, Police, Marine Scotland and the many, many locals who have been at the heart of activity and those who generously kept the rescue team supplied with refreshments.

Update at 16.50 June 4th 2015

Yesterday afternoon, BDMLR were alerted to half a dozen whales that were milling just off the coast about an hour away from the original site. At least one has been identified as being from the original stranding.  These have remained in the general area overnight and today, resting and not agitated.  They continue being monitored by BDMLR volunteers and locals.

No intervention is currently planned as herding them out to deeper waters may cause them to panic and restrand.

To confirm the numbers, 14 of the 21 whales that stranded were saved, 4 had died as a result of the stranding and 3 were put to sleep humanely.  6 are currently being monitored and there have been no reports of other sightings so it is hoped they have made it away from the shores.

Update at 13.00 June 11th 2015

A couple of days after the stranding and rescue, around six pilot whales moved about 35 miles south and have been sheltering in the Lochs around Skye.  Two of these have been positively identified as being among those that were rescued on the Tuesday.

We are receiving regular updates from members of the public on the whales' whereabouts and they seem to be splitting into smaller groups and then coming back together.  One large male stranded briefly in some shallows but was refloated with help from locals and the rising tide. He may have been following other whales taking advantage of the rising tide and moving out, but being larger would have grounded where they could swim without a problem.  Thankfully, due to the quick reaction of local observers and the rising tide, he seems not to have suffered from this experience.

Sadly, the body of one female washed up close to the Skye bridge towards the end of the week.

The Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme carried out necropsies on the bodies of those animals that died earlier in the week.  Their findings confirm that the female that stranded originally was suffering as the calf she was carrying and trying to birth had twisted inside her and she would not have been able to calve or survive.

We are maintaining close contacts with a number of observers on Skye as well as our own team and again thank all those who have shown such a caring and helpful response.


Photos from top: Crown Copyright, Stardust Boat Trips Skye