An operation is underway to remove a minke whale which washed up on a beach in East Lothian. 

The marine animal was first spotted by a skipper from a Scottish Seabird Centre wildlife tour by Craigleith Island on Wednesday. 

Later in the day, it floated towards North Berwick Harbour before being washed onto a beach in the coastal town. 

East Lothian Council was first alerted to the sighting of the whale on Wednesday and has contacted an external contractor to help with the removal. 

The Herald: The Scottish Seabird Centre became aware of the marine animal (Image: Susan Davies)The Scottish Seabird Centre became aware of the marine animal (Image: Susan Davies) (Image: Susan Davies/Scottish Seabird Centre)

However, while the contractor is on-site, the next tide is beginning to come in which could delay their efforts. 

Minke whales are among the smallest of the baleen whales and usually measure an average of 27 ft - however, the council has said that the adult female on West Beach measures 9.5m (31 ft) in length. 

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The incident has been reported to the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) which collates and analyses all reports of stranded whales and dolphins.

The nearby Scottish Seabird Centre joined the council in pleas for residents to stay away while the recovery is underway.

Susan Davies, chief executive of the centre said: “We were all sad to see a common minke whale washed onto the rocks below North Berwick harbour yesterday.

"It was first spotted further out near Craigleith Island by the skipper of one of our seabird wildlife boat trips.

Speaking about the minke whales she added: It prefers cooler waters and, if you are lucky, you can spot it around Scotland’s coastal and inshore waters.

"The stranding has been reported to the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) which collates and analyses all reports of stranded cetaceans and can carry out autopsies to understand more about the health and ecology of this fascinating marine animal.” 

“Seeing a creature of this scale inevitably sparks curiosity but we advise everyone to keep their distance if they wish to look at it.

East Lothian sees around three to four whales wash up every year. 

A council spokesperson said: "The council’s Countryside Rangers were first alerted to the sighting of a whale in the sea off North Berwick yesterday.

"By late afternoon it had floated inshore and was on rocks close to North Berwick Harbour.

"Overnight tides then washed the carcass onto West Beach in the town and the council has contracted an external contractor to lift and remove it from the beach."

Ms Davies said: “The Scottish Seabird Centre supports a Whale and Dolphin Conservation Shorewatch site in North Berwick harbour. 

"Shorewatch is a network of volunteers trained to monitor whales and dolphins at sites around the Scottish coastline, raising awareness and capturing vital data to protect these amazing species.

"People in East Lothian who are interested in becoming a Shorewatch volunteer can find out more about upcoming training opportunities via our website or by contacting WDC.”