At least 65 whales dead in UK's 'biggest mass stranding in decades'

The pod of 77 whales washed ashore in a beach on the isle of Sanday (British Divers Marine Life Rescue)
The pod of 77 whales washed ashore in a beach on the isle of Sanday (British Divers Marine Life Rescue)

A pod of 77 whales has washed ashore in a beach in Orkney in what is thought to be the largest mass stranding in decades.

In a statement, the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said they had received reports of a mass stranding of finned pilot whales on the isle of Sanday at around 10.45am on Thursday.

Medics from the BDMLR found around 77 animals which had been stranded high up the beach for “several hours”, a spokesperson for the group said.

Only 12 of them are still alive but they are unlikely to survive, they added.

Health assessments and first aid were provided to the surviving animals as the incoming tide approaches.

“Our team continues to work hard to manage this incredibly difficult situation and further updates will be given as the incident progresses,” the BDMLR said.

“Colleagues from the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme are also on their way to begin post-mortem investigation.”

The incident could represent the largest stranding event in Scotland since 1995, according to the BBC.

Emma Neave-Webb from BDMLR said the latest stranding was a "big, big incident".

She told BBC Scotland News: "There are whales everywhere. There’s a long line of them, some of them are still alive.

"I know from experience how difficult these incidents are and I think we need to be realistic."

Last July, there was a mass stranding of pilot whales in the Western Isles.

Around 55 of the animals had become stuck at Traigh Mhor Beach on the Isle of Lewis.

The BDMLR said at the time: “The reason for the whales stranding is currently unknown, but pilot whales are notorious for their strong social bonds, so often when one whale gets into difficulty and strands, the rest follow leading to more of them stranding,” the BDMLR said at the time.”