More than 50 whales die after being stranded on Scottish island


A group of more than 50 pilot whales died Sunday after a mass stranding on a Scottish island beach.

According to marine conservation organization British Divers Marine Life Rescue, only one whale survived.

The organization was alerted to the beached whales around 7am local time from North Tosta on the Isle of Lewis. When rescue teams arrived, only 15 of the approximately 55 stranded whales were still alive.

According to Marine Charity, rescuers attempted to refloat the surviving whales, but three more died in the rescue teams’ work, leaving 12 alive – eight adult whales and four calves.

At around 3:30 p.m., the vets concluded that the rough waves and shallow beach made it unsafe to refloat the whales and they were euthanized.

The organization said it was an “incredibly complex rescue.” Because the area was remote, paramedics had to travel up to five miles to get help and communicate with rescue coordinators. Floating pontoons also had to be flown in. British Divers Marine Life Rescue said the organization was “severely lacking in operational equipment” following Sunday’s rescue efforts.

Although officials have yet to come to a definitive conclusion as to why the mass stranding happened, the marine conservation organization believes one of the whales stranded while giving birth to its young. “Pilot whales are notorious for their strong social bonds. So if one whale gets into trouble and strands, the others often follow,” the organization said.

The Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme will conduct autopsies to determine the cause. People have been advised to avoid the area to ensure autopsies can be conducted undisturbed. The organization said Sunday’s stranding is believed to be the largest deadly mass stranding in Scotland in decades.

Almost 500 pilot whales died in two cases Stranding events in New Zealand last year. There was at least one mass stranding in Australia in 2020 380 whales dead.

The mass stranding on Sunday happened just a few days later 78 pilot whales were killed as part of a traditional hunt in the Faroe Islands, a self-governing, semi-autonomous region of Denmark.

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