Minke whale dies in the Outer Hebrides, entangled in rope

Minke whale

The death of a minke whale after a kayak team’s dramatic rescue attempt has sparked a row about “ghost” fishing gear.

Rescuers battled in vain to save the mammal that had been snared by a rope round its mouth off the Outer Hebrides.

The whale was spotted in distress off the coast of Barra, and over several hours surfers and kayakers tried to save the mammal.

Instructors from the Isle of Barra Surf and Coastal Adventures managed to remove a rope which was jammed in the whale’s mouth and under its body.

Underwater footage shows that the lower jaw looked broken and tragically the whale washed up later on Sunday on a local beach.

“Once again another innocent sea creature is the victim of ocean pollution”, said a spokesman for the rescuers.

Elie MacLennan, Project Coordinator from the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA) said this was a rare but unfortunate event.

“There has been a slight increase in whales being tangled in ocean pollution in Scottish waters despite its rarity.

“No entanglement is deliberate and working with local fishermen, Project SEA can work towards a prevention of entanglement and demonstrate the impact this has on animals and human safety.”

Entangled whales

A few days ago a young whale also died after it became entangled in what are thought to have been creel lines off the north-west coast of Scotland.

The Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) received reports of the minke whale’s plight with the youngster found bloated and floating on the surface.

It had been dead for a couple of days and was discovered by rope wrapped around its head.

A spokesman for SMASS said: “Minke whales are the smallest mysticete species in our waters, and are less powerful swimmers, therefore less able to escape, or surface to breathe, once entangled.”

The relatively small whales grow to around 26 feet in length, and can be found in waters around Scotland.

The SMASS spokesman continued: “Entanglements aren’t just a Scottish problem, they occur globally wherever marine animals and fishing gear overlap.

“However, the good news is that in a bid to address these here, the Scottish Entanglement Alliance is working with the inshore creel fishing industry to better understand the scale and impacts of marine animal entanglements.

“No entanglement is deliberate and fishermen are often as upset, if not more, by these events as anyone.

“It is vital that we continue to develop positive working relationships with the inshore fleet and support work with fishermen to try and prevent these incidents in the future.”

This article was originally published as Kayak team attempt dramatic rescue of minke whale entangled in rope in Outer Hebrides at The Press and Journal on 21/05/2019.

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