A humpback whale that washed up dead on a Scottish beach last month was entangled in fishing gear that originated more than 4,000 kilometeres away in Nova Scotia.
The Scottish Marine Animals Strandings Scheme (SMASS) wrote a Facebook post on May 31 after the organization and other volunteers completed a necropsy on the juvenile male which had come ashore at a beach in Scrabster the day before.
SMASS wrote that they found a rope attached to a buoy had pinned the left pectoral fin of the whale to its body and causing severe lacerations.
But the buoy itself provided a clue, marked with the owner’s name and number which was eventually traced to a Nova Scotia fisherman.
The society says they reached out to the fisherman whose gear it was and that he’s been helpful as they search for answers.
“[He’s] pretty devastated his gear ended up doing this,” SMASS wrote, stressing that entanglements are not deliberate and that the fisherman isn’t to blame.
“Understanding how to reduce and mitigate the risk to marine wildlife needs engagement from the fishing community — they are the solution to this issue, not the problem.”
How did the gear get to Scotland?
The organization speculates that the whale could’ve become entangled with the gear near Nova Scotia before making its way more than 4,000 kilometres to the Scottish coast before dying.
But they say that is unlikely due to the state of the animal, which didn’t have signs of the buoy causing long-term injuries.
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Instead, the group believes that the gear could be what they call “ghost gear” or gear that is lost, drifting through the ocean before it entangled the whale.
Due to the amount of liquid in the whale’s lungs, it is believed the animal drowned.
The dead humpback was the fifth entanglement reported to the SMASS in five weeks, the organization said in its Facebook post.