Saturday, August 6, 2011

Was pollution responsible for mass stranding of pilot whales?

Scientists are probing whether pollution may have caused 70 pilot whales to strand in north west Scotland last month. The whales may have been poisoned by years of toxic waste.

Experts have now asked the UK government for £20,000 to carry out the first such major diagnostic tests on a super pod in Scotland - which could show the legacy of decades of pouring toxic chemicals into the sea.

No such link between strandings and pollution has ever been proved before - but scientists say they are now finding killer whales with toxic readings "hundreds" of times over the limit.

There are growing fears that Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB's) - which are now banned - are so prevalent in the marine environment that over a period of time they have entered the food chain widely.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is now being asked for £20,000 of the £50,000 of toxicology tests that the Scottish Agriculture College-led investigation into the recent stranding in Sutherland wants to probe.

The Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme is continuing to investigate the cause of what is believed to have been Scotland's largest ever stranding of pilot whales, in the Kyle of Durness on July 22. Some 25 of the 70 whales are believed to have died. (more)