UPDATE: Pilot Whale Mass Stranding – Orkney

Photo: Emma Neave-Webb

UPDATE 6:12pm: Sadly the remaining 12 pilot whales have been euthanased due to their condition deteriorating from the many hours they have spent stranded on the beach resulting in crush injury from their own weight and the high likelihood that they have inhaled water with the incoming tide. The substrate they’re on is also incredibly soft meaning they have sunk even deeper into the sand when the tide washed over them, so they unfortunately weren’t able to refloat themselves.

The Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) will attempt to recover as many bodies as possible for post-mortem sampling and examination to try to determine the circumstances of stranding. This is currently unknown as there are no obvious indications as to why they all stranded today, and it may be some time before full results are available due to the huge task of conducting these examinations.

We would like to thank all of our volunteer Marine Mammal Medics who attended this incident along with members of the local community for their efforts in these distressing circumstances. Thank you also to all of our supporters who have been sending their heartfelt sentiments to the team, as well as SMASS and other colleagues in the background who have been assisting our rescue coordinators and vets with technical support too.


On 11 July 2024 at about 10:45am, British Divers Marine Life Rescue received a report of a mass stranding of up to 100 long-finned pilot whales on the isle of Sanday in Orkney.

BDMLR’s regional team was immediately mobilised with response equipment to make their way over to the island, whilst we waited for more information on the situation from the small number of Medics already on Sanday that were on their way to the scene.

On arrival, the Medics found there to be about 77 animals high up the beach, having evidently been stranded for several hours already. Sadly, only 12 of them still alive at this point.

With the very limited resources and people immediately available, health assessments and first aid were provided to the surviving animals as the incoming tide approaches them.

Our team continues to work hard to manage this incredibly difficult situation and further updates will be given as the incident progresses. Colleagues from the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme are also on their way to begin post mortem investigation.

Rescues like these can cost the charity greatly, especially when they occur on islands as remote as this one. If you would like to help us with our expenses for getting more Medics on the ground with vital equipment, please click here to donate.