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Animal rescuers called after pod of whales found ‘stranded’ near Fife village

Pod of whales stranded at Culross in 2018.
Pod of whales stranded at Culross in 2018.

Fears are growing for at least one of five pilot whales which were found “stranded” off the Fife coast on Tuesday.

Around 30 volunteers from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) organisation have been involved in a rescue bid at Culross since just after 11am when the huge animals were spotted.

One of the pilot whales in the Firth of Forth near Culross.
Rescuers watch the whales in the Firth near Culross.

All five of the whales got into trouble at the village’s pier, with one stuck upside down and said to be in “distress” for half an hour.

Four of the whales have since disappeared from view as they got into deeper water, but concerns have been raised for one of the whales which has moved position and was seen struggling further east near what was originally Preston Island.

Paul Smith, BDMLR coordinator for Fife and Stirling, said there was not much more that could be done as light disappeared into the evening.

“Looking for a black whale in a black sea on a black night is not ideal,” he said.

“We’ve just had a watching brief until we lose light and we’ll continue to monitor the situation.

“We first got the call to some whale like objects in the water in the Culross area and we found five pilot whales up on the beach area, still in the water but very close in and clearly in distress.

Animal rescuers gather in Culross in an attempt to save the whales from further harm.

“We did a quick assessment and mobilised resources, but the animals floated off before we could intervene.

“Their behaviour is definitely giving us some cause for concern. They are not showing normal behaviour but because they are now in deep water there’s nothing we can really do.

“If we hadn’t been losing light then we could have attempted a refloat if they became stranded.

“The whales were together but they have now split up – one we can see from the shore, three are further out and the other one has completely disappeared.

“There’s obviously a reason they’ve come in so close to shore – they are very social animals so if one is injured or ill then they would stay together.”

There had been talk of getting a medic on board a boat from Port Edgar but that plan was ditched as light faded.

The pod of whales at Culross.
Graham Harris Graham spotted the pod of whales at Culross pier.

Culross landscape photographer Graham Harris Graham, who runs a gallery from the village’s Town House, came across the struggling sea creatures this morning.

He said the whales were practically “headbutting the pier” when he arrived at about 11am.

One of the mammals, believed to be the leader of the pod, was stranded upside down in shallow water.

Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Graham added: “My colleague was down at the pier this morning and said, ‘you have got to come down, there is a pod of five whales there’.

“It’s very shallow here. There’s a danger of them getting beached. One of them was upside down and had been like that for half an hour and then, believe it or not, the wash off of a boat flipped it over and it managed to sail off. It was quite lucky really.

“They (the rescuers) suggested it was a female in distress and she was leader of the pod. The others will follow the leader even if it means putting itself in danger.

“They were all in very, very shallow water, all stuck in the pier for quite some time.”

Graham added: “The whales were here for a couple of hours. I think there are four divers in the water just now trying to get the last of them into deeper water as the tide is now coming out.”

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