Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Probe into cause of Fife mass whale stranding continues

Dead whales
Image caption The environment secretary said he wanted the report results "as soon as possible"

Scientists are continuing their investigations into what caused a group of whales to die in a mass stranding on the Fife coast.

Twenty-two pilot whales died when they became beached between Pittenweem and Anstruther earlier this month.

Researchers at the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) have been examining the carcasses.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has requested a full report into the incidents "as soon as possible".

In a separate incident, a dead sei whale was also found on a beach at Eliot near Arbroath last week.

Initial results

Mr Lochhead said: "It is deeply distressing when we hear reports of whales dying, particularly mass stranding incidents such as we saw earlier this month in Fife.

"The reasons why whale strandings take place, be it natural causes or linked to human activities, are not known.

"The initial findings do not point towards any obvious health problems, however I hope that by examining and testing the carcasses, SAC will be able to shed light on this concerning issue."

Following the mass stranding of the pilot whales, each of them approximately 20ft (6m) long, ten others were refloated after being kept alive by vets from British Divers and Marine Life Rescue.

There are many reasons why whales come close to shore and strand, according to SAC veterinary investigation officer Andrew Brownlow.

He said: "Initial results on the pilot whales suggest most were healthy.

"Strandings are sadly not uncommon with social cetacean species, where many animals appear to strand because they follow a sick, lost or panicked individual."

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