Five bottlenose dolphins have been found washed up dead along the shoreline of the Cromarty Firth despite a valiant effort by rescuers to return them to sea.
A team from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) battled over the weekend to save more than 50 dolphins after they became stranded in the Cromarty Firth.
The large pod were rescued and refloated at Nigg Bay before become stranded further down the coastline.
Thanks to the valiant efforts to rescue teams, the pod were eventually turned around and returned to the wider Moray Firth.
However, members of the marine conservation charity have confirmed that five of the dolphins have since been found washed up dead along the shoreline.
A post mortem is due to take place by the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme for further investigation, however, conservationists believe the bottlenose dolphins belonged to a pod located offshore.
In a statement published on Facebook, BDMLR confirmed the sad news.
They wrote: “Since the incident, five bottlenose dolphins have sadly been found washed up dead in the area, which have been given a post mortem examination in situ by our colleagues at the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme for further investigation.
“The animals involved appear to be an offshore group of bottlenose dolphins, and are not from the well known resident population in the Moray Firth area, as none have been identified from photos in the local ID catalogue.
“Needless to say, this is a highly unusual stranding event for this species, the likes of which we have not encountered before.”
Mass dolphin stranding concerns
Rescuers were first called to the area on Saturday following concerns for a mass stranding at Nigg Bay.
The pod became stranded in the Cromarty Firth in shallow water at low tide.
Rescue teams descended on the area before successfully refloating the dolphins within a couple of hours as the tide began to rise.
Reflecting on the incident, the team admits it was not all plain sailing.
Taking to social media, they wrote: “Luckily, the dolphins had stranded in shallow water at low tide, and were all refloated within a couple of hours by the rising water.
“Although a number of our volunteer Marine Mammal Medics were on scene monitoring the situation, it was not possible to get hands on with the animals as they were a very long way from the shore in a highly intertidal area on a sandbar surrounded by water, which made safe approach extremely difficult.
“However, once refloated, the dolphins did not move off and were monitored by our team continually through the day from both sides of the estuary until dark as they milled around.
“At first light on Sunday, the dolphins were found even further in the Cromarty Firth, at one point being tracked past Invergordon, and there was a lot of concern that they might restrand at the Cromarty bridge.
“Thankfully they were turned around and they eventually left into the wider Moray Firth at around lunchtime, and the pod has not been seen since.”
Vow of thanks
Charity officials have thanked teams for their involvement in the rescue operation.
They added: “We would like to thank all of our team at BDMLR who were involved on the scene and behind the scenes who were dealing with this situation through the weekend, and to the staff at SMASS as well as the local Coastguard rescue team who provided support throughout.”