Date of this Version
In the first seven months of 2008, eighteen Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris), four Sowerby’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon bidens), five unidentified beaked whales and twenty-nine long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) were reported stranded in the UK and Ireland. Decomposition of those animals investigated puts the predicted time of death at mid-January. Concerns that an unusual mortality event had taken place prompted further investigations. Most carcasses were too decomposed for necropsy. A summary of findings is presented here. Although the initial stranding of five Cuvier’s beaked whales in Scotland shared some similarities with atypical mass stranding events linked in time and space to mid-frequency naval sonars, there were two important differences with the remaining strandings during this period. First, the geographical range of the event was very wide and second, the strandings occurred over a prolonged period of several months. Both of these factors could be related to the fact that the mortalities occurred offshore and the carcasses drifted ashore. The cause(s) of this high number of strandings of mixed offshore cetacean species during this period remain undetermined.