Pregnant whale found tangled in ‘ghost fishing net’ dies in Scotland

‘In this case, entanglement cost the lives of two animals – the mother and her unborn, female calf ...  there is just no excuse for wilfully throwing this stuff overboard’

The minke whale was found ashore on the island of Sanday in Orkney
The minke whale was found ashore on the island of Sanday in Orkney

A pregnant whale has been found dead on a beach in the Scottish islands of Orkney with the remains of abandoned fishing gear entangled in its mouth.

The minke whale was pregnant with a female calf, according to experts from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (Smass).

A lost nylon fishing net – of the type of discarded fishing apparatus known as “ghost gear” when found drifting at sea – was found stuck in the whale’s baleen, the plates in its mouth used to filter seawater.

The dead animal, which subsequent examination found had been in good health before encountering the net, was found on Sanday, one of the larger inhabited islands in east Orkney.

Representatives for Smass assessed its carcass, concluding: “The animal was in excellent body condition and pregnant with a mid-term foetus.

“It looked like it had become recently entangled in a section of discarded or lost fishing net – this had become jammed in the baleen and then dragged behind the animal. This would have hugely impaired the animal from feeding or swimming normally, and likely led to an exhausting last few hours of life. Based on the flank bruising and lungs, it appears this creature live stranded and drowned in the surfline.”

Writing on Facebook, Smass warned abandoned fishing gear poses a deadly threat to cetaceans.

“Entanglement in nets and fishing lines is a growing global concern and this case highlights that entanglement risk in these species is not just from rope – lost, abandoned or discarded nets also represent a significant hazard to marine life,” the organisation said.

“In this case, entanglement cost the lives of two animals – the mother and her unborn, female calf. This further demonstrates why such interactions can be both tragic at an individual level and potentially a risk to the population. Of course there are situations where gear is lost by accident of misfortune, but, where it isn’t, there is just no excuse for wilfully throwing this stuff overboard.”

The death of the whale follows a better outcome for another whale also caught in fishing nets off the coast of Orkney the same week.

In that case a humpback whale was accidentally caught, and the fisherman alerted a rescue team who successfully disentangled the animal.

Another humpback whale which was seen entering the Thames estuary in south east England earlier this week was later found dead.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in