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Recent entanglements and next steps in mitigating these

We’ve been a bit quiet on here for the last few weeks but that’s not because SEA haven’t been up to much – quite the opposite in fact! Our project co-ordinator has now completed her interviews with Scottish inshore creel fishermen and based on feedback from these, plans are now underway to host a disentanglement workshop for fishermen who have, or may in the future, encounter a stricken marine animal in their gear.

Over the last 14 months 150 fishers from Eyemouth to Yell, Campbeltown to Kinlochbervie and Eriskay to Peterhead  have given up their time to speak with SEA co-ordinator Ellie  MacLennan and tell her about their fishing practices and experiences (if any) of marine animal entanglement. This information has improved our understanding not only of entanglements, but also of fishing activities, marine animal presence and concerns within the sector and we are very grateful to everyone who has contributed.

Over 130 previously unreported entanglement events were recorded through these interviews and on top of these, 2019 is proving to be a busy year for SEA partner the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) who have received reports of numerous entanglements. These include:

  • April – humpback whale, Dunbar.
  • May – minke whale, Iona; minke whale, Gairloch (live, free-swimming); minke whale, Barra; humpback whale, Scrabster.
  • July – Minke whale, Isle of Skye.
  • August –  Minke whale, Oldany; Minke whale, Hillswick.
  • September – Minke whale, Isle of Mull; minke whale, Sanday; basking shark, Applecross.


Oldany minke whale, reported in August 2019; Skye minke whale, reported in July 2019. Both animals had clear evidence of entanglement around the tailstock.

Sanday minke whale reported over the weekend with discarded netting caught in its baleen; Mull minke whale, first reported at sea earlier this month.

Although each and every entanglement is unfortunate and each can have conservation, welfare, human safety and economic implications, these are never deliberate and fishermen have played an integral role in the successful disentanglement of numerous whales around our coast.

The fishermen who have contributed to SEA’s work so far have been very eager to learn more about this issue and find practical solutions to mitigate the problem. In light of this enthusiasm from the sector, SEA are organising a training and knowledge exchange workshop especially for fishermen and those directly involved in disentanglement, to share experiences, suggest mitigation measures, and learn how to safely and successfully disentangle large marine animals caught in fishing gear. This workshop will be delivered by David Mattila who has a long history of international whale work, including leading several global large whale entanglement and ship strike mitigation initiatives. Since 1984 David has been developing unique rescue tools, techniques and training programs for whale disentanglement and has trained over 1200 people across 34 countries.

David’s visit offers Scottish fishermen and disentanglement team members a unique opportunity to work together and influence how this issue is tackled moving forward in ways that are practical, realistic and above all, safe.

Entanglements aren’t just a Scottish problem, they occur globally wherever marine animals and fishing gear overlap. SEA partners are working with and supporting fishermen to better understand the scale and impacts of marine animal entanglements, and find solutions to minimise these risks whilst allowing fishermen to continue earning their living from the sea. The SEA project continues to receive a massively positive response from the creel fishing community, and it is crucial that we and the public appreciate these efforts and recognise that fishers are the solution to this issue, not the problem.

If you are a creel fisherman and would like to learn more about the SEA project, get involved in this, participate in the disentanglement workshop, or if you have ever come across an animal entangled in your gear, please contact the SEA project coordinator Ellie MacLennan on 01463 246048, 07393 798153 or at [email protected].

Any information you choose to share will be treated positively, sensitively and confidentially.

DM workshop poster

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