Highlands & Islands

Whale washed up in Caithness tangled in Canadian fishing gear

Dead whale Image copyright Karen Munro
Image caption The whale's body came ashore near Scrabster last week

A humpback whale may have become entangled in fishing gear thousands of miles away from where it was found dead on Scotland's north coast.

It came ashore close to Scrabster, near Thurso, in Caithness, on Thursday.

Scientists who have examined the carcass said it was likely the juvenile male, which was tightly wrapped in creel rope attached to a buoy, drowned.

Contact details for the owner of the gear, a fisherman in Nova Scotia, Canada, was on the buoy.

Scientists from the Inverness-based Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (Smass) said the fisherman in Nova Scotia was "devastated" to learn of the whale's death.

Image copyright Karen Munro
Image caption The Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme examined the whale's carcass

Smass said it was possible the whale had dragged the gear 2,500 miles (4,023km) from the lobster fishery to the location where it was found.

They added that another theory was that the creel rope and buoy had been "ghost gear", lost or abandoned fishing equipment that can drift in the sea for miles, and that the humpback became entangled off Scotland.

The scheme said the humpback's tail had scars on it left by ropes from a separate entanglement. The identifying marks could help the scientists find out where the whale had previously been seen.

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