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16 Pilot Whales Die in Scotland Mass Stranding

3rd September 2012
16 Pilot Whales Die in Scotland Mass Stranding

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Marine wildlife experts are investigaing the causes of a mass stranding of pilot whales at Fife in eastern Scotland at the weekend.

The Press Association reports that 16 whales from a 26-strong group died when they stranded on a beach near St Andrews on the morning of Sunday 2 September. Three of those that died were calves.

More than 50 volunteers assisted members of the RNLI and vets from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) in refloating the other 10 whales at high tide yesterday afternoon, in what BDMLR co-ordinator Ali Jack described as "a fantastic effort".

Rescuers used specialist pontoons brought in from across Scotland as well as Newcastle and Cumbria in northern England.

According to The Guardian, some 24 whales from the same pod were spotted in the shallows further along the coast at Cellardyke and are under close observation.

A Forth coastguard spokesman said that vets would return to the beach this morning to carry out post-mortems on the whale carcasses to find any indication of what might have caused them to come so close to the shore.

The spokesman told The Guardian: "It is a very rare occurrence in Scotland and very sad. The usual scenario would be that the whale that is leading the group has become ill, or has lost its way, and gets beached and the rest will follow on, although we do not know for sure if that is what happened."

The incident brings back memories of last year's mass stranding of 44 pilot whales in the Scottish Highlands, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Twenty-five whales from that pod died at the Kyle of Durness, in a tragedy that mirrored the deaths of 33 whales in a similar mass beaching in Donegal in late 2010.

Published in Marine Wildlife
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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