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The tragic death of a killer whale stranded on a British island has been blamed on human activity, after its body was found scarred with bloody rope marks.
Anna-Lisa Jenaer found the young orca on Papa Westray, one of Scotland’s Orkney Islands, while walking round its nature reserve.
The whale looked to have been entangled in a rope causing it severe injuries with blood clearly visible when it was found.
Mrs Jenaer, a Welsh screenwriter living on the island, said the whale was visibly injured when she found it.
She said: “It appeared fresh. Blood was still emanating from its body.
“It looked like it was injured rather than just dying a natural death.
“It was my first time seeing an orca, and was very sad as a first sighting, but at the same time it was amazing to get up close and be able to admire it. It was magnificent.”
An investigation by the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) discovered that fishing gear was to blame.
A spokesperson said: “The lungs showed water aspiration which, in combination with distinct antemortem rope marks around the tailstock, strongly suggests entanglement as the cause of death.”
The orca, which was roughly five years old, was believed to have been in good health before the incident took place, investigators said.
“It had been a reasonably healthy animal in good body condition which had been recently feeding,” the spokesperson added.
“There was no marine debris or fish remains in the stomach but quite a lot of seal.”
They continued: “No rope was found on the animal, so it’s not possible to say if this animal became entangled in active fishing gear, or discarded or lost material.
“But based upon the lesion pattern it is likely the animal became entangled prior to death, was unable to reach the surface and drowned.”
The SMASS said the rest of the orca’s group could be at risk and has called for action in order to protect these whales.
The spokesperson said: “Entanglements are not deliberate and there are many fishers out there who are positively and proactively engaging with efforts to mitigate the impact of fishing.
“More needs to be done, however.
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“Strategies to have less rope in the water and better management of gear conflict are urgently needed.
“This group of killer whales could be particularly at risk given that they are frequently sighted in areas with high mobile and static fishing effort.”
The animal's discovery comes days after a study uncovered the devastating impact of discarded fishing nets and lines on Cape Fur Seals in Namibia, Africa.
A team of scientists found hundreds of cases where the seals were being slowly garrotted, with the tangled cords cutting ever deeper into their flesh as they grew.
- In the News
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