News / Whale rescue being organised

WILDLIFE experts in Shetland are planning to rescue a young humpback whale that has become caught in lobster lines off the east coast of Shetland.

The ferry crew on the Whalsay ferry first saw the whale in trouble at Orra Wick, to the west of Lunning Head, at 7am on Thursday morning.

The alerted Scottish SPCA and SNH who have been keeping an eye on it ever since. The crew of a local fishing boat went out in the afternoon to have a closer look.

They found the whale to be entangled in a complex mesh of lines that can hold many individual creels. The mammal remained in more or less the same position for about nine hours.

However, later in the afternoon the situation became more complicated when the whale appeared to have broken free and was swimming around the bay of Orra Wick with the rope still attached.


The whale is probably the same whale that has been swimming off the north east coast of Shetland for the past few days. It is estimated to be about 8 metres long and may be a juvenile or even younger.

Watching the stricken animal from the cliffs above Orra Wick, senior inspector with the Scottish SPCA, Ron Patterson said: “At the minute we have various people phoning around trying to get hold of a boat. We also would need divers to find out exactly what the situation is.

“But you will appreciate that diving with something this size can be a major problem.”

Jan Bevington of the Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, who was also watching the whale, added: “I am heartbroken about this kind of situation where you fell helpless and unable to help such a majestic creature of the sea. I am just hoping that we will be able to get hold of divers to work out some way of releasing it.”

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Meanwhile, Karen Hall, of SNH’s Lerwick office, has contacted the Marine Animal Entanglement Response Centre (MAERC) in the USA who have offered advice on how to go about the dangerous operation of freeing the whale from the ropes.

A three man team from British Divers Marine Life Rescue who have trained with MAERC in America are coming to Shetland on Friday to see if they can help.

The incident has occurred on the eve of a reunion of ex whalers in Shetland who have not gathered for 50 years since the end of the whaling industry and will be holding a reception at Lerwick Town Hall on Friday night.

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