AT least six northern bottlenose whales have died after being washed up on an Irish beach in the country’s worst ever stranding tragedy.
Seven whales washed ashore and only one survived after the discovery on Rossnowlagh beach in Donegal.
Meanwhile, members of the public have been slammed for going to the scene to take selfies with the dying whales.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) called the scene “upsetting” and the local council and police have set up a barrier to keep people away.
In a video posted today, IWDGCEO Simon Berrow explained: “We had a phone call first thing this morning about live stranded whales up in Rosknowlagh in Co Donegal in Donegal Bay.
“There were reports of 7-8 bottlenose dolphins, which we thought was strange because bottlenose dolphins don’t really live-mass strand.
“But we got a video from tourists on the beach of northern bottlenose whales. These are a very very big offshore species.
“They belong to the family Ziphiidae. They’re beaked whales. We know very little about them.
“They are prone to mass strandings. This is the largest mass stranding of this species ever in Ireland.”
The CEO also said in the video that refloating or euthanising them was not possible due to their size.
He said: “To be honest, there’s very little you can do about it. They probably weigh 3 or 4 tonnes the adult males, so they’re not really good candidates for refloating.
“And even if we could, is it the right thing to do? These are deep diving species that live in 2000 metres of water.
“Are they going to be back in that habitat? No, they’re going to be in a shallow water in Donegal Bay.
“Can we euthanise them? An animal that big, you can’t really use pentobarbital which is the barbiturate choice for large animals such as horses and cows in the Republic.”
He added: “You just have to let nature take its course, provide first aid on the beach, make sure they’re not stressed by people who are too close or yapping dogs.”
The group also urged members of the public to keep a safe distance from the surviving whale.
They wrote: “Unfortunately, IWDG are receiving upsetting news from our members on site from Donegal where crowds of people are going out to see and take selfies with the only surviving Northern Bottlenose Whale.
“Although we understand people want to see this large whale, we strongly urge members of the public to keep a safe distance from this whale and to be respectful allowing our trained members on site to do there job!
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“Donegal County Council and the gardai are en route to set up a barrier. We ask you to please respect it.
“Thank you for your continued support.”
Berrow stated a possible reason for the whales washing up ashore could be “acoustic trauma.”