RESIDENTS living in Orkney have been left baffled by the stranding of thousands of fish on beaches in Shapinsay and Finstown.

Atlantic saury are considered to be rare in local waters although in the last few days thousands have apparently deliberately swum ashore to die, according to the BBC.

Secretary of the Orkney Trout Fishing Association Malcolm Russell told the broadcaster that some fish he returned to the sea turned back and grounded themselves again.

Residents have also reported seeing thousands on beaches including Elwick Bay in Shapinsay and the Bay of Firth at Finstown.

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Russell says it is possible they were following sand eels into the bay, or that heavy rain at the weekend made the water less salty than usual.

However, he said he could not explain why they did not swim back to the Atlantic once they got into difficulty.

NatureScot’s marine sustainability manager Dr David Donnan added: “Saury are known to occur in shoals close to shore and sometimes occur in large numbers.

“There are occasional records of saury being stranded, for example there are records from the Cape Cod area on the American east coast.

“There are a number of possible causes for stranding, including lack of food or poor weather conditions, such as extreme cold and stormy conditions.

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“As well, sometimes saury may be pursued in shallow waters by predators. Therefore, it’s difficult to point to a specific cause in this case and that is not unusual.

“It’s probably more likely to be a natural cause than a human-induced one.”