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Whale tangled in Nova Scotian fishing gear washes ashore in Scotland (2 photos)

A nine-metre juvenile humpback has washed ashore on a beach in Caithness, a region on the northern tip of the country

A nine-metre juvenile humpback has washed ashore on a beach in Caithness, a region on the northern tip of the country.

A Scottish fisherman first spotted the whale when it was still floating at sea.

On May 30, a team from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) travelled to Scrabster beach to perform a necropsy on the animal.

A blog post on the SMASS website says the whale was "wrapped in creel rope attached to a buoy."

The rope was tightly around the pectoral fins, and pinning the left fin tight to the whale's body.

The SMASS says that because of the large amount of liquid in the whale's stomach and lungs, they suspect it drowned.

When the group removed the rope from the animal, they used the name and number on the fishing gear to trace it back to a fisherman in Nova Scotia.

"Unusually, the gear removed from this animal did not come from the Scottish fleet," they say.

The SMASS says they made contact with the Nova Scotian fisherman, who was "devastated" to hear about the entanglement.

"He was very helpful and provided valuable information pertaining to this case which we could not have gained any other way," they say in the post.

The society is unsure exactly how the fishing gear ended up 4,000 kilometres away in Caithness.

They say it's unlikely the whale travelled across the Atlantic tangled in the gear, and the most likely explanation is that the buoy was "ghost gear" which drifted across the ocean on its own.

"Marine debris and ghost gear are genuinely a global hazard, whose impact spans ocean basins, sometimes affecting marine life many thousands of miles from where originally deployed," says SMASS.

The group says they don't blame the Nova Scotian fisherman, but it's important to try to prevent these things from happening.

"No entanglement is deliberate," says SMASS. "Understanding how to reduce and mitigate the risk to marine wildlife needs engagement from the fishing community -- they are the solution to this issue, not the problem."

Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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