Speculation over whale death points to creel lines

Dead minke whale washed up on the West Sands, St Andrews was disposed of by Fife Coast and Countryside Trust on Wednesday, June 2. Photo credit: Julie Seymour
Dead minke whale washed up on the West Sands, St Andrews was disposed of by Fife Coast and Countryside Trust on Wednesday, June 2. Photo credit: Julie Seymour

It took less than 24 hours to clear a washed up minke whale from the Eden Estuary yesterday (Thursday) in what was a very rare occurrence in St Andrews.

Officers from the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust received word on Wednesday night that the whale had been spotted initially at the West Sands.

Ranald Strachan, ranger said: “The whale had drifted in on the tide and ended up in the Eden Estuary. It appeared to have been dead for a couple of days.”

The Scottish Marine Stranding Scheme – who collate all data from stranded marine animals around Scotland – were called in from Inverness to perform an autopsy on the mammal in St Andrews.

Often carcasses of stranded whales, dolphins and porpoises are left to decompose naturally but Ranald explained that due to the muddy nature of the site and the high public usage of the area it was safer to dispose of the carcass but the reason for the beaching still remains a mystery.

Ranald said: “The reasons for whales beaching themselves is still part mystery but it could be down to navigation. The North Sea is very, very shallow for whales and it is a challenge for them.”

“Although from the initial photograph and the damage done to the whale, it is suspected that it got tangled in creel line.

“We have an issue around the coast with washed up creels that is starting to become a real worry.”

The sheltered St Andrews bay experiences easterly air flow and sizable waves. The winter storms can pick up and wreck the lobster pots and before they wash up, they move around in the shallow water posing a potential danger to marine life.