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Troubled pilot whale at Sullom Voe

Wildlife experts are keeping a close eye on this long-finned pilot whale near the Sullom Voe Terminal

A LONG-finned pilot whale which has got into difficulty in Sullom Voe is threatening to force work to stop on the new gas pipeline for the Total plant currently under construction.

The five metre long whale was first seen swimming near the Sella Ness harbour buildings on Thursday and environmentalists kept a close eye on the creature until the early hours of Friday morning.

During that time the whale beached, and then thrashed its tail until it was back swimming in the water again.

By Friday morning the whale was floating just off the beach directly outside Sullom Voe oil terminal, occasionally swimming in circles and then resting again.

Andrew Inkster, engineering manager for Shetland Islands Council’s ports and harbours department, said the whale had first been seen with two other whales in Brae earlier in the week.

All three had appeared at Sullom Voe on Thursday morning and during the day the two healthy whales had disappeared, leaving this creature on its own.

Dutch marine contractors Van Oord are working nearby loading rock onto barges and transporting it to dump on top of the inshore section of two gas pipelines that have been laid next to Total’s gas plant construction site.

“If it goes over to the pier we shall have to cease operations until it decides what it wants to do,” Mr Inkster said.

He added that there was concern that people coming to see the whale could impede the trucks carrying rock by parking their vehicles close by.

Jan Bevington, of Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, spent several hours watching the whale on Thursday evening. Speaking from Sullom Voe on Friday, she said the whale was not in good condition at all.

“It’s completely disoriented and I don’t know how long it will hold, but it’s better than last night, so we shall just have to wait and see what happens,” she said.