Bottlenose dolphin mass stranding in Cromarty Firth

On the morning of Saturday 14th August, BDMLR were alerted to a large mass stranding of more than 50 bottlenose dolphins at Nigg Sands, Cromarty Firth.

Luckily, the dolphins had stranded in shallow water at low tide, and were all refloated within a couple of hours by the rising water. Although a number of our volunteer Marine Mammal Medics were on scene monitoring the situation, it was not possible to get hands on with the animals as they were a very long way from the shore in a highly intertidal area on a sandbar surrounded by water, which made safe approach extremely difficult. However, once refloated, the dolphins did not move off and were monitored by our team continually through the day from both sides of the estuary until dark as they milled around.

At first light on Sunday, the dolphins were found even further in the Cromarty Firth, at one point being tracked past Invergorden, and there was a lot of concern that they might restrand at the Cromarty Bridge. Thankfully they were turned around and they eventually left into the wider Moray Firth at around lunchtime, and the pod has not been seen since.

Since the incident, five bottlenose dolphins have sadly been found washed up dead in the area, which have been given a post mortem examination in situ by our colleagues at the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme for further investigation. The animals involved appear to be an offshore group of bottlenose dolphins, and are not from the well known resident population in the Moray Firth area, as none have been identified from photos in the local ID catalogue.

Needless to say, this is a highly unusual stranding event for this species, the likes of which we have not encountered before. We would like to thank all of our team at BDMLR who were involved on the scene and behind the scenes who were dealing with this situation through the weekend, and to the staff at SMASS as well as the local Coastguard rescue team who provided support throughout.

Photos: Gordie Bryce