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


2006-05-15 15:46:34

Neonate porpoise strands at Newquay, Cornwall

Mark Stevens called Coordinator Dave Jarvis at about 6pm to report a stranded 'baby dolphin' at Towan Beach, Newquay. Dave immediately called Medics Jenny Haley, Phil Jarvis, Jessica Maynard and Karl Wheston, and then called Dan Jarvis who was at Plymouth University revising for an exam the next day. While Dave got equipment together Dan continued with ringing Medics in the Newquay area and gave first aid advice the caller, Mr Vangellis.

The porpoise was described as about 2ft long, with no beak – obviously a very small harbour porpoise. He also mentioned that it had stranded twice already and was currently being held in a sling (a jumper) in waist deep water and was breathing very rapidly. Mr Vangellis was advised to keep the porpoise supported in the sling until Medics and a veterinarian arrived to assess its health.

Jenny was the first Medic to arrive, shortly followed by Rebecca Allen, Andrew Macreadie, Kirsty Balcombe, Terrence Shackleton, Matt Boulter and Jo Ward. Jenny, Rebecca and Kirsty went into the water to support and assess the porpoise (now confirmed as a neonate) while Terrence, Matt and Medic Nikki Fuszard searched along the beach and harbour in case the mother was nearby. Andrew, also a member of the Coastguard, took the job of crowd control.

Dave, Lesley and Phil, Jess and Karl then arrived. Dave spoke to a man in a boat that came close in to see what was happening, and was instructed to look for any sign of the mother with the help of some nearby kayakers, as well as people watching from the promenade. Dave then [click to enlarge image] spoke with BDMLR Director and consultant marine mammal veterinary surgeon James Barnett and gave him the details of the situation.

BDMLR veterinarian Mike King was contacted and arrived quickly with Medics Jim and Ida Moore while the porpoise continued to be supported in the water. Its breathing rate was fluctuating between 12 – 22 bpm so it was obviously in a lot of distress and was not responding well to calming techniques employed by the Medics despite their best efforts. Mike assessed the porpoise to be in poor nutritional condition, and as the light was beginning to fade with no sign of the mother whatsoever there was no alternative but to euthanase the young animal, which was carried out quickly and efficiently. The porpoise died shortly after the injection was given.

After the porpoise had passed away the body was examined. It was a male with part of the umbilicus still attached, measured 85cm from tip of the snout to the tail notch and had a few superficial scrapes and scratches probably caused by when it stranded earlier on in the evening. The body was taken for Post Mortem.

Despite the sad outcome, we would like to thank all Medics who attended this incident for their professional attitudes in dealing with the situation and rapid response.

Medic Dan Jarvis
BDMLR West Cornwall
(Newquay - Land's End - St Austell)