A SICK long-finned pilot whale that had spent three days swimming around the busy oil port of Sullom Voe finally beached itself and died early on Sunday morning.
The whale, which measured 4.6 metres, had been escorted into the harbour by two fellow whales on Thursday who then left it to fend for itself.
Port operators Shetland Islands Council kept a close eye on the creature, which on Friday threatened to disrupt the work being carried out by Dutch marine contractors Van Oord who are laying rock to protect new pipelines that are being laid for the new Total gas plant.
The port is busier than it has been for years with the building of the £500 million gas plant, along with an accommodation block at Sella Ness for up to 800 construction workers.
Crowds of people started to gather to watch the whale on Friday as it swam to the head of Garth’s Voe.
Animal welfare charity SSPCA raised concerns about one man who donned a wet suit and spent a half an hour with the whale as his friends looked on.
Local inspector Ron Patterson said: “I was very disappointed to hear about the man who was in the water with the whale.
“Members of the public need to realise that although it’s not an offence to go into the water, it is an offence to interfere with a sick or injured animal under the 2006 animal health act.”
Mr Patterson said that the whale continued to swim around the head of the voe throughout Saturday, until it beached around 10pm and died at low tide about three hours later.
He said it appeared to rally shortly before it died and had been swimming quite powerfully earlier in the evening.
On Sunday the port’s engineering manager Andrew Inkster said that the authority had taken the dead whale off the beach and was holding it until Monday morning when Scottish Natural Heritage would arrange for samples to be taken to find out the cause of death.
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