Specially trained volunteers have rescued a humpback whale snared in fishing lines in Orkney.

The whale had become trapped off the island of Westray, anchored to the sea bed by its tail which was entangled in the fishing gear.

The fisherman who discovered the animal in his fishing ropes alerted British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), a new group set up to deal with entanglements.

Volunteers travelled overnight to Kirkwall from  Glasgow, Dundee, Moray and Ullapool to meet up with local BDMLR team members.

Using a specially adapted Rigid Inflatable Boat the team manoeuvred close to the whale to assess it and establish the best way to approach the stricken animal. After withdrawing to plan where best to cut the ropes, they returned and using specialist cutting gear, were able to free its tail before daylight faded on Monday. Volunteers reported the whale remained relatively calm throughout.

The group were assisted by the fishermen and others from the local fish farm, boat club and chartered vessels. After the animal had been freed, the local Westray community accommodated the whole team overnight when they returned safely back to shore.HeraldScotland:

BDMLR’s Large Whale Disentanglement Team (LWDT) is comprised of volunteers who have gone through extensive training in how to approach stricken animals and use specialist equipment to free them from any ropes netting or other materials that they may be caught in. 

BDMLR is part of a collaboration called the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA), set up last year after the inshore creel sector raised concerns over entanglement within their industry.

The organisation says entanglements are a global concern that can occur wherever wildlife and fishing activities overlap.  Incidents can impair an animal’s ability to breath, feed, swim and reproduce, but fishermen are often equally distressed and BDMLR says entangements are never deliberate and fishermen often play a vital role in successfully releasing these animals.


Rescue attempts can be extremely dangerous, and lives have been lost in the past in other countries, but BDMLR has been working to raise awareness of the team’s existence, skills and availability in recent years.

Spokesman Dan Jarvis said: "We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to all BDMLR team members, local residents, businesses and the fisherman for all their extraordinary efforts in making this rescue possible."

Pictures and video courtesy of Noel Hawkins