What was reported to be two harbour porpoises stranded on the rocky shoreline at Culross, Fife late on Tuesday 25 July. BDMLR have attended several incidents in this area and know from experience that rescues here are challenging. One of the animals was thought to have already died so when BDMLR Medics arrived they expected to find only one live porpoise, possibly out of reach due to the tide and the fact it was dark.
At 11pm it was confirmed the animals were, in fact, two northern bottlenose whales, not porpoises. One was not moving but the other was quite active, both were lying on their sides in the sand and gravel substrate. Upon further assessment both whales (female) were found to be alive, however these animals are deep diving species and were far outside their normal habitat and their health would be compromised already based on previous experience of this species at strandings.
Specialist rescue equipment was brought on site just in case any rescue may have been possible, however at around 2.20am after discussions with the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, some complications were found and it was deemed too dangerous to get to the animals in the dark on an incoming tide. Coastguard teams supported BDMLR Medics throughout the night as they monitored the whales.
At 6am the following day the first whale died, and at around 2.30pm the second one passed away. A video surfaced around that time of another cetacean swimming in the Forth, but the animal was not found and no positive ID was made. It is thought it could be a third animal and all belong to a pod which was seen further north a few days previously, and around the Shetland Isles before that.
BDMLR Medics and supporting organisations did an amazing job monitoring the whales through the night, it was a very sad outcome, but we have learned more about these rare visitors which will help us in the future.
Photo Credit: Callum Adam