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Whale cut free after getting caught in fishing ropes

Specially-trained volunteers from British Divers Marine Life Rescue were mobilised on Monday.

A humpback whale has been rescued in Orkney.

A specially-trained group of volunteers from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) were mobilised on Monday after a local fisherman discovered the mammal anchored in his fishing ropes.

The fisherman remained on hand to assist, and along with support from a local fish farm, boat club and chartered vessels, the disentanglement team were able to approach the whale to assess it and identify the entanglement configuration.

Rescued: The humpback whale was cut loose.
Rescued: The humpback whale was cut loose. British Divers Marine Life Rescue

The whale - which was anchored by its tail to the seabed - was then quickly freed before daylight faded.

Once the whale was on its way, the Westray community welcomed the team safely back to shore.

A BDMLR spokesperson said: "We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to all BDMLR team members, local residents, businesses and the fisherman for all their extraordinary efforts in making this rescue possible."

Rescuers: The team set the whale free.
Rescuers: The team set the whale free. British Divers Marine Life Rescue

Entanglements are a global concern that can occur wherever wildlife and fishing activities overlap.

These incidents can impair an animal's ability to breathe, feed, swim and reproduce, are distressing and potentially dangerous for those discovering them, and can also result in significant financial losses for fishermen through damaged or lost gear.

The BDMLR said it is important to remember that no entanglement is deliberate, and more often than not it is fishermen who are more upset and affected by these incidents than anyone.

The BDMLR spokesperson noted: "It is also important to remember fishermen often play a vital role in successfully releasing these animals, by reporting incidents and providing assistance to rescue teams, as was the case here."

BDMLR is part of a collaboration called the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA), which was initiated in 2018 after the inshore creel sector raised concerns over entanglement within its industry.

To date, over 150 creel fishermen have contributed to SEA's work by sharing information on their marine wildlife encounters, experiences of entanglement, and their ideas of ways to reduce the risks of these incidents occurring in the future.

The BDMLR spokesperson added: "This is already leading to some exciting developments which would not be possible without the industry's continued support and participation working alongside conservation organisations."

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