Scotland has seen some dramatic hours from a natural point of view, with at least 55 cetaceans mostly dead stranded on the Isle of Lewis and Harris, west of the coast of the country. According to British Divers Marine Life Rescue, only 10 of these pilot whales are still alive.
The reasons for this massive stranding are not known, but it is common for these marine mammals to move in precise organization. Specialists from British Divers Marine Life Rescue have been to the scene to treat the whales, but have also urged the public to avoid the area, the exact location of which has not been revealed until the situation is resolved.
To give the dolphins the best chance of survival, researchers and local police are urging people to avoid the area. Here the words they shared on Facebook: "This morning (Sunday 16th July 2023) around 7am, BDMLR were alerted to a mass stranding of around 55 pilot whales on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland.
Unfortunately, none (apart from one that was refloated early on) survived the ordeal - the last animals were declared deceased at about 3:30pm. This was an incredibly complex rescue – the signal was extremely poor in such a remote area with our Medics often having to drive 1-5 miles to get service to communicate with Rescue Coordinators at Head Office.
On top of this, as well as our local Marine Mammal Medics attending, Medics from surrounding areas also prepared their kits and made their way to the island from the mainland. Rescue Coordinators even facilitated flying in more refloatation pontoons from various regions across England and Scotland via Civil Air Support!
Transporting our equipment and our Medics around the country is very expensive and takes a toll on our funds – and this rescue also made it clear that we need to purchase more VHF radios in order to improve communications in remote areas.
We would be so appreciative of any donations you are able to give in order for us to continue helping these marine mammals around the UK."
About the pilot Whales
Pilot whales have a massive body with two long, crescent-shaped pectoral fins.
The globular head has a protruding forehead and ends with a very short rostrum. The skin is black, whitish in an area between the chest and belly. Its maximum dimensions reach almost 7.5 meters in length. Sometimes we observe groups practically stationary on the surface, so as to allow boats to approach.
Spyhopping, lobtailing and also breaching are often observed but this is almost only in the younger specimens. Collective strandings have been observed, including major strandings in New Zealand in 1918 (about 1000 pilot whales) and 2017 (at least 600 pilot whales), and on the island of Tasmania (over 200 pilot whales).
The dives it makes to feed, or rather to look for food, can last up to 10 minutes. Its breath exceeds a meter in height. They can also be observed at a depth of 600 meters, but usually its dives go to a few tens of meters. It feeds mainly on cephalopods.
The species has been heavily exploited in the past centuries, but in recent times it is still observed quite numerous above all in two specific places: In the southern hemisphere (associated with the Humboldt, Falklands and Benguela currents) and in the North Atlantic.