Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

Rescuers fear trapped whale has died

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 10 September 2010

Rescuers working to save a humpback whale which became entangled in a rope near Shetland tell Channel 4 News they fear it has died.

Rescue boats circle the trapped humpback whale near Shetland

A rescue operation was launched yesterday near the bay of Orra Wick on the north east side of Shetland after a whale was spotted entangled in a rope.

The whale was tangled in a creel line, a rope attached to cages on the seabed used to catch lobsters and crabs. It is estimated the whale is around 12 metres long and weighs 30 tonnes.

Expert divers were called in to help free the animal but rescuers say it has been a number of hours since it was last sighted.

A team of specialised divers from British Divers Marine Life Rescue, which is based in Uckfield, East Sussex, raced to the area to try to get the rope of the humpback.

However members of the Scottish SPCA and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), who launched the operation, have said the whale has not been seen since this morning. The whale may have died or swam away, they said.  

"The animal hasn’t been seen today and it may well have gone to the bottom of the sea," a spokesman from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue told Channel 4 News.

"As mammals they do have to surface to breathe air - that’s what it's been trying do. The whale has been fighting against the ropes and pulling itself up towards the surface.

"We know it was struggling yesterday and overnight may have succumbed."

The expert divers arrived in Shetland this afternoon and are expected to stay over the weekend to assist rescuers.

"If they find the whale they will asses it and try to free it. But if they can't see it we will assume it has gone to the bottom of the sea."

The team have previously completed a training course at the Centre for Coastal Studies in Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, America, helping to free grey whales caught up in creel lines.

Scientist Bob Reid, from the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), told Channel 4 News it was rare for a humpback whale to be caught around the Scottish coast - although several minke whales get entangled in creel lines every year.

Mr Reid said whales can get caught in the horizontal ropes as they feed with their mouths open.

As creel is very a important fish, Mr Reid said, stopping the fishing would be almost impossible. He added that the deaths of minke whales are not substantial enough to impact population numbers which are on the increase.

Send this article by email

More on this story

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest Science Technology & Environment news

More News blogs

View RSS feed

Autism breakthrough


A new brain scan could diagnose autism in 15 minutes.

New superbug


"Medical tourism" spreads a new superbug to the UK.

Oil spill: BP 'failed'

BP oil spill

Professor Rick Steiner asks why killing the blowout took so long.

A new energy source?


Exclusive access inside the UK's first shale gas well.

Most watched


Find out which reports and videos are getting people clicking online.

Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.