Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

'Critical time' for refloated Fife pilot whales

A group of pilot whales believed to be those refloated at a Fife beach have been seen between North and South Queensferry.

Seventeen whales died when they became stranded between Anstruther and Pittenweem on Sunday. Another was found dead on Monday off the Port of Leith.

The refloated whales were seen near Deep Sea World at 15:00.

Marine rescuers said the next day would be critical in determining whether they become stranded again.

It is hoped the pod is now heading back out to sea.

Stephen Marsh from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue said low tide would be a critical time for the whales.

He also said people out in boats chasing the pod and "playing around with them" were not helping rescue efforts.

He added: "The coastguard have been out ensuring that that is stopped. So we are hoping that overnight the pod may well move back out to deeper water."

Image caption It is understood the whales may now have changed direction and be heading back out to sea

Meanwhile the operation to remove the carcasses of the 17 dead pilot whales has been ongoing.

It could take until Tuesday. Tests are being carrying out on the carcasses.

Bob McLellan, Fife Council's head of transport and environmental services, said: "This is an incredibly awkward site as we have no direct road access and the whales are lying at the bottom of a cliff.

"However to move them out to sea would be problematic due to the tides.

"Arrangements are now in place to winch the whales up the cliff face into specially lined skips. A specialist contractor will then deal with the disposal of the mammals.

"We're working with Sepa, the State Veterinary Service, the Coastguard and contractors to get the situation dealt with as efficiently and effectively as possible."

Three calves

A further 24 pilot whales, thought to be from the same pod, were spotted in shallow water about three miles away at Cellardyke.

They have been monitored for signs that they are in danger of stranding.

The ten stranded whales were refloated on Sunday after being kept alive by vets from British Divers and Marine Life Rescue.

The incident involved pilot whales, approximately 20ft (6m) long.

Patrols have been taking place at sea and volunteers have been walking along the coastline to check no whales have become stranded again.

Efforts will also take place to establish what caused the pod to become stranded, with vets hoping to perform post-mortem examinations on some of the dead animals.

Three of the whales that died were calves.

The incident drew a large number of bystanders to the scene, prompting the coastguard to urge the public to stay away to allow rescue teams to carry out their duties.

Coastguard teams from St Andrews and Leven, Anstruther lifeboat, and Fife Police assisted with the incident.

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