Pilot whales are not uncommon in this region, their appearance this close to shore in such large numbers is unusual. Initial reports state that some of the whales seem to be injured. WDCS staff are on site and will assist with any rescue attempt as well as offer any scientific and behavioural advice required.
If a mass stranding situation arises, it is likely that a big rescue effort would be required, which will be made even more difficult than usual because of the remote location and unpredictable weather conditions.
Mark Simmonds, head of international science at WDCS comments; "Live strandings usually feature very social species like the pilot whale. These animals will often act together if under threat.
"Out in the open oceans - where there is nowhere to hide but behind each other - this works well but in a near-shore situations, the same strong bonds can lead to tragedy. We do know that loud noise and disturbance in the seas can displace such animals, sometimes leading to their death."
WDCS also notes that the UK government has made it’s final decision to allow two companies to conduct seismic surveys for oil and gas in the Moray Firth this autumn. Some of these surveys will take place on the boundary of the Special Area of Conservation designated to protect the bottlenose dolphins who make this area their home. As you know, dolphins’ worlds are defined by sound. They rely on sound to communicate, to hunt and to make sense of their surroundings.
The Society is deeply disappointed at this news and this is a serious blow for the protection of these very special individuals. Back in 2008 we launched our Protect Our Dolphins campaign and many thousands of you signed on to our petition to keep oil and gas out of the dolphin’s sanctuary. Our joint efforts persuaded the government to say ‘no’ to all seismic surveys in the Moray Firth for three years.