THE dead sei whale that washed up in Dalgety Bay ended up buried at the landfill site north of Wellwood.

The logistical challenge of moving the 12-metres long carcass, which weighed around 15 tons, involved heavy plant machinery to lift the mammal and a final journey by road to Dunfermline recycling centre.

The sei whale, a rare sight in Scottish waters, was found dead on Thursday, November 11, and it took until Sunday, November 14, before a post-mortem and the operation to remove it was completed.

A spokesperson for the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust said: "As this happened in the Forth estuary, it was important to try and identify the reasons why the young whale had perished and possibly what actions can be done to prevent further strandings.

"Normally, when whales die in the ocean, their bodies do eventually sink to the ocean bed and the carcass becomes an ecosystem for other fish and sea animals, however, when floating in a busy shipping lane such as the Forth, they can become a hazard to watercraft."

Volunteers from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue responded when the whale became stranded off North Queensferry on November 10, however, it managed to swim off into the Forth.

But hopes it had survived were dashed the following morning when a dog-walker found it washed up on the shore at Dalgety Bay.

A request to recover the whale for a necropsy – post-mortem – was made by the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS).

The trust, which manages most of the beaches in Fife, helped identify contractors to carry out the recovery and removal of the dead animal.

A spokesperson explained: "The whale was washed up on the cove below Lumsdaine Drive in Dalgety Bay, which is a difficult area to get to by foot and impossible with heavy plant machinery.

"Therefore, the carcass had to be tethered at this location, as to allow it to float away would have created a hazard for various types of watercraft.

"On the morning of November 13 at high tide, the whale was refloated and towed by a boat to the slipway at Burntisland beach."

Heavy plant equipment had to be brought in to land the whale and facilitate the necropsy. Once samples had been taken, the carcass was transported via containers to the landfill site at Lochhead.

The trust spokesperson added: "The whole operation to remove the dead animal started on Thursday, November 11, at noon and the car park at Burntisland was opened back up to the public on Sunday, November 14, at 1pm."

The sei whale is one of the fastest whales, reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. They inhabit all oceans and adjoining seas except in tropical and polar regions.

SMASS said it was "only the third record of this species stranding in Scotland in 30 years" with previous incidents at the Isle of Lewis in 1990 and in 2012 at Angus.

A spokesperson said it would probably take a couple of weeks before they could establish the cause of death of the sei whale.

There was decomposition and large areas of bruising, probably from the stranding, and although it was "quite thin" there was evidence that it had been feeding, albeit not in the last 24 hours of its life.

He said further tests would need to be done "before we can find out what brought it ashore in the first place".