Highlands & Islands

Record year for marine animal strandings in Scotland

Dead Cuvier's beaked whale Image copyright WDC
Image caption The figures include dozens of beaked whales that were found dead on the west coast

The organisation that investigates the deaths of whales and dolphins on Scotland's coast said 2018 was a record year for strandings.

The Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (Smass), which has been in operation since 1992, said more than 930 cases were reported.

Inverness-based Smass said the increase was likely down to an "improved effort" to alert it to dead or beached animals.

The strandings included almost 100 beaked whales in August and September.

This event, which involved whales stranding along Scotland's west coast and also on the shore of Ireland and Northern Ireland, was the largest of its kind ever recorded, said Smass.

Most of the whales, mainly deep-diving Cuvier's beaked whales , washed up in Scotland, including in North Uist and Harris and parts of Argyll.

At the time some experts speculated that increased naval sonar activity may have been to blame.

Smass said it had seen a year-on-year increase in all animal strandings for almost 10 years.

It said this was largely due to better public awareness and reporting, rather than a problem with the world's oceans.

Last year, 670 strandings were reported to Smass. There were 204 in 2009.

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