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


2005-12-12 15:52:00

Dolphin euthanased after entanglement in fishing net

At 8:30am, Medic Lesley Jarvis took a call from Maddie Precious from the Cornwall Wildlife Trust Strandings Network about a dolphin possibly in trouble at Porthleven, Mount’s Bay. Coordinator Dave Jarvis contacted Medic Phil Jarvis to attend and assess the situation while he went to collect Coordinator Tim Bain with Lesley.

Medic Karl Wheston was contacted, along with Medics Caroline Curtis and Gary Hawkins who arranged to get the rescue ambulance to the scene. Subsequently, further calls about the dolphin were being received, including Claire Baker of the Animal Care Team at the National Seal Sanctuary. She in turn also contacted Medics Tamara Cooper and Chris Ellis, who then set out. Meanwhile, Dave was in contact with Medic Dan Jarvis (in Plymouth) to liaise with more Medics and Sue White at Head Office, and was able to get Rory Goodall to attend with equipment should it be necessary to ‘borrow’ boats from the harbour.

Phil arrived just before 9am, and immediately located the animal swimming in circles in the outer harbour. Phil made contact with Council workmen nearby, who said that it had been there for some time. Phil passed on this information on to the Coordinators, who were now well on their way. Consultant BDMLR veterinarian Paul Riley was contacted and advised of the situation, and he requested to be updated on a regular basis.

Once Dave, Tim and Lesley arrived, they got changed into their drysuits and Paul was updated on what was happening. It initially appeared that the animal may just be confused by being in an enclosed area, and it was decided that the best course of action at that stage would probably be to guide it back out into the sea. However, following further observation, and reports from members of the public, it became apparent that the animal had fishing net caught around its body, so in order to get a closer look, Tim and Phil went into the water, shortly joined by Tamara and Chris in their drysuits. Communication was set up with a fishing boat that was positioned on the seaward side of the incident to act as a support boat to the Medics in the water. Karl then arrived and was given the job of documenting the events with his camera as he only had a wetsuit available and conditions were fairly cold. Paul was again updated of the latest development, and he indicated that we would have to examine the animal.

The dolphin continued to circles and then swam back and forth between the Medics, and as the tide rose, they were able to guide it back towards the main harbour, eventually shepherding it behind one of the large breakwaters. As there were steps down to that part of the harbour, Dave was able to go down to where the animal now was and gently restrained it whilst the other Medics joined in to physically support the animal, which put up no resistance. At this point, it became apparent that there was monofilament net cutting into the melon, around both pectoral fins and the tail. Using penknives, Phil and Tamara carefully cut the net away while the dolphin was supported by the others. The net was then handed to Lesley for safekeeping.

Having successfully completed that phase of the operation, the animal was assessed. Unfortunately, it was immediately apparent that the lumbar muscle area around the dorsal fin had a ‘hollow’ appearance, obviously meaning that the nutritional state was poor, and that part of the left tail fluke was severed. Paul immediately undertook to attend the scene to give his professional assistance. Medics Jane Bennett, Darren Neville, Martine McPherson, Abi Coates and Rory Goodall had now arrived and were given various duties.

The Medics in the water were constantly assessing both the animal’s and their own situation, and having discussed their location with the local Maritime Coastguard Agency, who were also present and had contacted BDMLR earlier, it was decided to remain in the same position in order that the animal was not stressed more than necessary, and also because of the steps that provides safe access and egress.

By now, Paul had arrived and was briefed on the current situation, and BDMLR Director/veterinarian James Barnett called and discussed the situation with him. Sadly it was decided that the animal would have to be euthanased due to its very poor nutritional state, which Paul then dealt with. The body was then removed from the water and taken for Post Mortem examination at VLA Polwhele under the auspices of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust Strandings Network.

We would like to thank all Medics who were able to attend this incident and also assist in other ways; Martin Leslie and his team from the Maritime Coastguard Agency; various members of the public and the fishing community of Porthleven for their help; John Boyle for taking extensive footage of the rescue; the management staff of the Ship Inn for the refreshments; and finally Sue White at Head Office for ringing around calling out Medics.

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