A female whale found on a Scots beach had suffered some of the “most severe” entanglement wounds ever recorded.
The 14ft long Sowerby’s beaked whale, which was discovered on Gullane Beach by the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) last week, had a rope embedded deep into her skin and blubber and severe trauma to her right pectoral fin.
Marine scientists say the 650kg mammal died as a result of her injuries.
During a necropsy carried out this week, the SMASS team discovered that the whale had been entangled long enough for the cord to work its way right through into its underlying muscle layer.
In some places, the skin had grown over the top of the rope, while in others it had caused a deep tissue infection.
Unable to swim effectively and most likely in a large amount of pain, the animal became stranded and died.
Dr Andrew Brownlow, who heads up SMASS, said: “This is the ninth cetacean entanglement we’ve seen this year and one of the worst we’ve ever encountered.
“This animal suffered for a long time, certainly weeks, possibly months and died what we can only assume was an agonising death.
“It’s not possible to work out where the rope came from, but it is similar to the type of material used in both recreational and commercial creel and net fisheries.”
He said that those involved in the fishing industry were in a position to address the problem of ghost gear and rope debris in the water, pointing out successful initiatives such as Fishing for Litter.
Dr Brownlow added: “There are things we can all do to mitigate this. Beach cleans work – every piece of debris, rope or net taken out of the marine environment is one less hazard in the sea.
“If you can’t remove it, at least cut any loops, which are particularly hazardous as they form a noose into which animals become trapped.
“Everyone is responsible for the current state of our seas. Everyone has the opportunity to improve them. Please take what action you can.”