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


2007-06-21 15:28:50

Harbour porpoise stranding - Warkworth, Northumberland

Called out at around midday Thursday 21st June after reports of neonate porpoise stranded on Warkworth Beach, Northumberland. Ginny Swaile (also BDMLR MMM and Environment Agency Marine Team) and I gathered equipment and headed off to Warkworth. Upon arrival saw that porpoise was not neonate (about 1.2m long). Vets (Jane Barwick-Nesbit & Mr Prescott) and assessed as fit and good weight. Old wound on side was treated and antibiotics administered by vet. Member of the public had attempted refloat but animal was still looking active so decided to go for refloat again from the beach this time using tarpaulin as a support. This was abandoned after both medics and porpoise struggled in fairly heavy surf. Amble RNLI Inshore Lifeboat was called out to allow refloat from a boat to be attempted. Porpoise put on a stretcher and placed in the rib and as gently as possible the boat proceeded through the surf to calmer waters. About 1/2 mile out to sea the engine was turned off and the stretcher was lowered into the water and was supported by two lifeboat men. We allowed the porpoise to rest for about 20 minutes partially submerged until its breathing calmed down and it showed signs of wanting to move. Submerging the stretcher completely allowed the porpoise to swim off (at quite a speed!). We observed for a few minutes and saw nothing of the porpoise so headed back to the beach and returned to Newcastle.

I had a phone call in the early evening reporting that the porpoise had been washed ashore dead and was found by one of the lifeboat men whilst walking his dog.

Reports of 2 other dead porpoises from earlier in the week prompted us to query the cause of death. The porpoise was recovered and is presently being stored at the Environment Agency offices in Newcastle awaiting collection for post-mortem. Obviously a disappointing outcome but also encouraging example of many agencies working together, thanks to the RNLI, HM Coastguard, Environment Agency, vets and of course BDMLR.

Jill McCormick