British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (photo: Steve Marsh)
British Divers Marine Rescue


2018-09-17 15:56:39

Mass Stranding of Common Dolphins in Cornwall

There was a major incident in Cornwall early this morning, September 17th 2018, when 11 common dolphins live stranded at Godrevy, with at least three calves amongst the group.

Two off duty firefighters from Kent found the distressing scene just before 7am and immediately reported it to British Divers Marine Life Rescue's Charity Administrator Teri Charlton who was operating the hotline at the time. She in turn reported it to our Welfare Development and Field Support Officer Dan Jarvis who was the nearest medic to the incident, while she sent a text callout to the region's BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic volunteer team.

Dan met the two firefighters just ten minutes after the callout, and found that they had managed to quickly refloat 8 of the dolphins on the incoming tide and who were now circling a few metres off the beach in distress. Two more dolphins, a mother and very young calf, were already dead on the water's edge, so were carried up out of the water to reduce stress to the remaining dolphins and to help prevent them from restranding. A third dolphin that was also thought to be dead had been seen about 100 metres further away stranded in amongst rocks, so the two firefighters were sent back to the clifftop to see if they could find it again while the live dolphins were monitored.

Soon over thirty Medics were on scene monitoring the dolphins and searching for the missing third dolphin, along with extra volunteers from the Cornwall Wildlife Trust Marine Stranding Network to photograph and record the bodies, and then retrieve them for post mortem investigation with the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme- UK strandings. The third dolphin was soon located washing up against rocks by the search team, who confirmed that it was deceased, and were successfully able to retrieve the body from the water and up the cliff access path.

In the meantime, the survivors eventually headed back out to sea at speed and were soon lost to view. Monitoring continued for some hours, but they were not seen again and will now hopefully remain out of danger, though Medics will continue to watch the area. The bodies of the mother and calf were then brought up to the clifftop and the team debriefed.

BDMLR would like to thank all Medics that attended this major incident today. It was the largest mass stranding of common dolphins in the U.K. since the incident in the Fal Estuary, Cornwall, in June 2008 that involved over 70 animals, almost all of which were successfully refloated and herded out of the river system from multiple locations and out to sea. We would also like to thank the CWT Marine Strandings Network volunteers for their support with carcass recording and retrieval, the local National Trust staff for their support and of course the two off duty firemen who alerted us to the incident and for their huge efforts to get the surviving dolphins back in so quickly.

BDMLR is a national charity with trained volunteers around Britain that are ready to respond to cetaceans and seals in distress. If you find an animal of concern then please call our 24hr hotline on 01825 765546 for expert advice on what to do and what not to do, and so that we can mobilise our teams if necessary.

Photos courtesy Dan Jarvis (BDMLR) and J-P Castelain and Brock Larousso Davis (Kent Fire and Rescue)