A dead humpback whale calf has been found in the Highlands.
The “heartbreaking” discovery was made by a paddleboarder a mile off the coast of Lybster in Caithness.
The whale, believed to be less than a year old, was found entangled in ropes and a lobster pot and was already partially decayed suggesting it had been dead for around two weeks.
The suspected cause of death is drowning as a result of entanglement, considered the primary cause of death for some species of whale in Scottish waters.
Cal Major, a vet and world record stand up paddleboarder, is currently SUP-ing around the Scottish coast, having set off from Glasgow in mid May.
Her expedition is raising money for Seaful, a charity connecting more people to the sea. She is visiting local people and communities along the way, exploring human connection to the ocean.
She is also investigating the crucial role that the ocean plays in the climate and biodiversity crisis ahead of COP26, which is being held in Glasgow this November, and the need to properly protect the ocean from destructive human activity.
She said: “The ocean is our planet’s life force, creating the oxygen in every second breath we breathe. In that regard we are all connected to it, and all have a stake in its health, which in turn is inextricably linked to our health. And yet out of sight and out of mind, the importance of our ocean is often overlooked, and devastating harm is being done without us being able to see it.
“This whale is just the tip of the iceberg – a truly shocking sight and one which is a very stark and visual reminder of how vulnerable wild animals, even some of the largest in the world, are to man’s actions.
“I’ve heard the stats about the vast number of marine mammals dying every year as a result of entanglement, but seeing it for myself has been truly heartbreaking.
“When will the Scottish and UK government sit up and take action to properly protect our seas?”
Cal hopes that ocean health will be brought higher on the agenda for COP26, and ambitious protection measures enacted urgently.