Dead whale and unborn calf washed-up tangled in fishing net
The minke and her foetus were found by a ranger on an Orkney beach.
By Graeme Murray
A dead minke whale and her unborn calf have been found washed-up on an Orkney beach after becoming entangled in a fishing net.
The whales were discovered by a ranger on Sanday and the case is being investigated by Scottish Marine Animal Strandings' volunteers.
They say the animal, which comes under the baleen category of whales, would have struggled to feed or swim properly after being caught up in the fishing net.
It appears to have been dragged behind a fishing vessel before the whale drowned.
Following the discovery on September 20, a spokesman for SMASS said: "Yet another baleen whale found to be a victim of entanglement, this time an adult female minke whale, which was found washed up dead tangled in fishing net.
"This case was found on Sanday, Orkney and comprehensively investigated by some of the SMASS volunteers on Orkney.
"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."
Environmentalists say fishing nets are a growing global concern and lost and discarded nets are a huge hazard to marine life. They also blame fishermen for disposing of nets overboard irresponsibly.
A spokesman for SMASS added: "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. Surely it's not too much to ask for it to be brought back ashore and disposed of in a responsible way?"
A second Orkney entanglement case was reported in the same week, around the neighbouring islands of Westray.