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News / Whale disappears as porpoise beaches itself

ATTEMPTS to rescue a young humpback whale that got caught up in lobster lines off the east coast of Shetland were called off on Friday after the eight meter long mammal disappeared overnight.

It is not known whether the whale has managed to free itself from the mesh of lines with around 10 creels attached to it, or has died and sunk to the seabed.

Wildlife experts who had been out in a boat searching the area on Friday lunchtime said there was no trace of the animal and there was nothing more they could do at this stage.

Local people who had been out on a boat on Thursday evening said they had seen the whale moving relatively freely in the bay while still attached to the lobster lines.

Senior inspector with the Scottish SPCA Ron Patterson said: “The whale seems to have disappeared. We checked all the buoys and there is absolutely no sign of this animal whatsoever.

“We have to imagine that he has either broken free or lying dead at the bottom of the sea.

Obviously we are hoping it has broken free.”

He urged islanders to keep their eyes open and to call the SSPVA immediately should a dead whale be washed ashore during the next few week.

The humpback whale was first discovered by the crew of the Whalsay ferry on Thursday morning. During the day a steady flow of spectators watched the distressed animal moving slowly through the water.

Meanwhile the focus of attention shifted to the west coast of Shetland where a small porpoise had beached itself just outside the Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, on Friday morning.

The one metre long mammal was looked after by sanctuary owner Jan Bevington.

She said: “We came out this morning at around 8 o’clock and the first thing we found was this creature, completely dried out, lying on its side high up on the beach.

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“We immediately got sheets and lifted it back into the water. And this is where we have been ever since, trying to stabalise it and help it to get used to the sea again and get its balance back.”

Attempts to refloat the animal are still ongoing and will be supported by a team from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue who were on their way to Shetland this afternoon to help free the humpback whale.

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