A RESCUE attempt is underway after concerns were raised for the welfare of up to 45 whales spotted together in Orkney.

There are fears that the two pods of pilot whales are in danger of beaching themselves.

The two groups are off the islands of Stronsay and Sanday were being monitored in case they need help.

Video by Iain Johnston

A team from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue had been on standby in case the mammals beach.

A spokesman for the BDMLR charity said they are now taking action to try and prevent the whales from stranding.

"After consideration of the situation over the last couple of days, the team are planning an attempt to gently herd the whales at Stronsay further offshore, as they are currently at high risk of stranding," the spokesman said. "This will be carried out under a licence that we hold for this type of situation from Scottish Natural Heritage as cetaceans are protected in law from disturbance.



Picture: Iain Johnston

"We would like to ask that people avoid approaching either of the groups of whales, as this may cause distress or even lead to a stranding incident."

The would-be rescuers appealed for anyone locally with a boat available who could assist them with any herding or monitoring.

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BDMLR said they were first alerted to a pod of up to 15 long-finned pilot whales circling close inshore in St Catherine’s Bay, Stronsay, at the Orkney Isles on Friday.

A team of their volunteer medics and other locals had since been monitoring them and it was apparent that one animal appeared to be either injured or ill with the others in the group attempting to assist it at the surface.


Picture: Iain Johnston

Meanwhile, a larger pod of approximately 30 was also being monitored near the Isle of Sanday, and were seen as likely to be linked to the group at Stronsay.

Orkney islander Iain Johnson, who shot footage of the whales, said they were "close in to the shore"  just below The Craftship Enterprise, St Catherine's Bay, Stronsay.

"It is a real privilege to sit watching these creatures for a few hours, but sadly there's an injured one swimming on side / side fin sticking up and the rest of the pod are herding and helping keep afloat," he said.  "The BDMLR team are here and monitoring closely. All keeping our fingers crossed the rest of the pod avoid getting beached if/when the injured one comes ashore."