A rescue team and local volunteers are urgently working to encourage a group of northern bottlenose whales to leave a stretch of coast in western Scotland ahead of the Joint Warrior military manoeuvres planned to start in the area this weekend.
The whales have been regularly seen over recent weeks in lochs on the river Clyde but there are now concerns for their welfare.
Northern bottlenose whales are usually found in deeper offshore waters though they are occasionally sighted closer to shore around the Scottish coastline. Like other deep-ocean dwellers, sound plays a key role in their lives and there are concerns about what impact the noise generated by the anti-submarine exercises in the area might have on the whales.
A team from British Divers Marine Life Rescue who specialise in whale rescues, has been monitoring the whales and are working with local volunteers, authorities and boat owners to form a line of vessels that will attempt to gently encourage the whales to move back out to the relative safety of deeper water away from the area.
The flotilla began herding the whales out on Thursday morning with land-based volunteers also providing support.
WDC hopes that there are no cetacean casualties from the planned Joint Warrior exercise, noting the proximity to our own field site on the Isle of Lewis which is critical habitat and hopefully soon to be designated a marine protected area (MPA).
Update 2.10.2020 - Despite the best efforts of the rescuers in what was always going to be a difficult procedure, the whales have stayed in the area. To avoid causing any stress to them they will now be left and their condition continue to be monitored in the coming days.