Intro by Jeff Goodman:
For me, one of the pleasures of diving is the journey to the dive site. Watching out for dolphins that may come to look at the boat, or the sea birds purposefully heading along the coast to some secret fishing ground. Watching gannets streamline their bodies as they plummet out of the sky into the water or the miniature auks duck-diving to safety as the boat approaches. The cormorants and shags that glide gracefully across the water with a small fish in the beak. Then, on very rare occasions, one of these magnificent birds will pass by you underwater ensuring the topic of your conversation when getting back to the surface.
Hundreds of thousands of sea birds die each year in fishing gear. These are staggering figures and are probably a huge under-estimation so it seems a marvel that any survive at all when you also consider the loss of breeding habitat and an increasing shortage of food. The issue of ‘accidental’ bird mortality is a global issue but happens throughout the world at local levels. A recent case was near my home in Cornwall where 26 cormorants, shags and guillemots, were washed up on the shore in Falmouth after what is now surmised as being caught and drowned in local fishing nets. For any air breathing animal, drowning and struggling for life while being held underwater must be a true horror. It is something we all fear and yet we willingly and constantly subject other species to this painful death in the name of our dietary desires.
The birds were taken for autopsy to Vic Simpson, one of the world’s leading wildlife pathologists. This short video clip shows Vic working with scientific rigour as he highlights some of the processes that will determine the cause of death. But even such an experienced scientist as Vic feels the frustration and despair of providing the information needed to help understand our wildlife and the inability of people to implement this into more wildlife friendly methods of fishing.
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Stranded dolphin rescued from muddy inlet
At around 11:40 on Friday 16 February, a lone common dolphin was reported to British Divers Marine Life Rescue circling in the shallows in an inlet at Place, near Portscatho, in Cornwall. A couple of volunteer Marine Mammal Medics were sent down initially to monitor the animal in hope it would be able to get away by itself, and further assess the situation.
After an hour and a half or so of observation, the risk of stranding increased significantly as the tide went out as the inlet is very shallow, muddy and almost completely dries out over low tide. Therefore, a larger response team was dispatched with more equipment in preparation for a stranding. Indeed, the animal did soon strand in the mud and fell onto its side, submerging the blowhole. Luckily the team were on hand to help get it upright again quickly, then bring it ashore for a health assessment and to begin providing first aid. No obvious injuries could be found and it measured 2.03m, later confirmed as female.
The team were soon joined by two vets, who were able to confirm the animal to be in moderate nutritional condition and appeared otherwise okay following a more detailed health check, and so was suitable for the team to attempt to refloat. However, it was not possible to refloat it safely in the inlet due to the nature of the geography, substrate and tide there it seemed the most likely reason this dolphin had stranded was due to getting disoriented in this location, and would struggle to get out again. Luckily a local resident had his boat tender moored nearby and was happy to use it a transport craft to take the dolphin out to deeper water.
With help, the boat was slid across the mud and launched near the mouth of the inlet. A surfboard was placed on one side with a soft mat on top for the dolphin to lie comfortably on during the journey. When ready, the dolphin was carried across in a tarpaulin, transferred to a mesh stretcher and loaded on board with a team of four Medics including a vet.
The boat then carefully made its way out to the mouth of the Percuil River, facing into Carrick Roads and close to open sea, which was the most ideal site for release where the chance of returning and re-stranding was lower. The dolphin was carefully hauled overboard in the stretcher and held alongside briefly, though as she started kicking strongly almost straight away it was hard to keep hold and so she was released quickly. The boat retreated and the team observed her circling in the middle of the channel until she was lost from sight. The team returned to the inlet before darkness fell.
The area will be monitored over the weekend for re-sightings or re-strandings, but it is hoped that she will recover successfully and continue back out to sea. In the meantime BDMLR would like to thank the volunteer team, local residents and members of the public for all their efforts and support throughout this incident.
British Divers Marine Life Rescue is an international marine animal rescue organisation based in the UK and is a registered charity. The aims of the organisation are to provide a rescue service for marine wildlife, to support existing rehabilitation centres and to develop new methods of rescue, treatment, transport and care. Website www.bdmlr.org.uk.
Photos: Dan Jarvis
Mother of Corals Announces Ambassador Program
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