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


2009-03-09 10:27:47

BDMLR celebrates its 21st birthday and 3000th call-out

BDMLR Vet James Barnett examining the mother Common Dolphin with the youngster next to her at Frenchmans Creek, Cornwall 30th November 2009.  Photo taken by Jan Loveridge.2009 sees the UK's leading and largest voluntary marine mammal rescue team celebrating its 21st birthday and its achievement of responding to over 3000 call-outs. Over 1,200 of these call-outs have been responded to since British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) was sprung into the media spotlight in 2006 when a whale swan up the River Thames.

BDMLR has responded to over 2,460 seal call-outs and over 540 cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises) call-outs as well as 8 sharks, 14 turtles and 35 call-outs involving sea birds. Many of these call-outs have involved multiple animals like the Sea Empress Oil Spill where BDMLR medics helped rescue over 250 oiled birds in just two weeks. This is an amazing response for a small charity that trains volunteer marine mammal medics.

The 3000th call-out was to the successful capture of a underweight grey seal pup at Wick in Caithness, Scotland. Local volunteer medics Colin Bird and Karl McFarquhar attended and uplifted the seal pup to BDMLR's Highland Seal Hospital. This seal has been diagnosed as suffering from lungworm and is responding well to care and should make a full recovery.

BDMLR was sprung into the media spotlight in 2006 after a Northern Bottlenose Whale swan up the River Thames in London. Although this rescue was not successful many others have been. Whilst the Thames Whale rescue was being attempted another BDMLR team were in Cumbria rescuing a Bottlenose dolphin trapped in a marina, 'Marra' was successfully caught and released in a major rescue operation which involved the Fire Brigade, Coastguard, RSPCA, Police and local inshore rescue boat.

Although many of these animals are badly injured or ill and cannot survive, BDMLR have been successful on numerous occasions. Volunteer medics refloated two young common dolphins which became caught out by a sand bar near Walney Island, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. BDMLR Devon and Cornwall teams were launched into action last year after a mass stranding of common dolphins occurred near Falmouth saving many of the animals. Also, BDMLR's Chief Veterinary Consultant James Barnett attended and helped treat and released a mum and calf common dolphin at Frenchman's Creek in Cornwall back in November 2008.

British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) was actually formed in 1988, when a few like minded divers got together in response to the mass mortality of Harbour seals in the Wash area of East Anglia, to do what they could for the rescue effort. Since 1988, BDMLR have been involved in the rescue of marine wildlife after every major marine disaster, including the Braer shipwreck in Shetland, the Sea Empress grounding in Milford Haven and even helped with the Napoli off Devon and Dorset.

"In 2004, with the aid of a grant from IFAW, BDMLR set up its own small seal rehabilitation unit near John O'Groats in the far north of Scotland, backed up with a quad bike to rescue seals from remote beaches" said BDMLR’s Scottish Co-ordinator Jamie Dyer who also runs BDMLR’s Highland Seal Hospital.

Although seal rescue has remained a key component of the work of the charity, it has become progressively more involved in the response to stranded cetaceans in the UK. BDMLR were founder members of the Marine Animal Rescue Coalition (MARC), an affiliation of organisations with an active interest and involvement in the management of marine mammal strandings in the UK, with a primary focus of improving the response to live cetacean strandings. This has been achieved through the sharing of information and opinions, encouraging training and equipment, and consideration of the options available for the disposition of beached animals in the context of UK strandings patterns.

Every year, BDMLR trains over 400 volunteer Marine Mammal Medics and has 20 whale rescue pontoons located at strategic points throughout the UK, waiting to help stranded whales and dolphins. BDMLR has several training courses on its website including courses at St Mawes, Cornwall; Egremont, Cumbria; Bewl Water Reservoir, Kent; Selsey, West Sussex and a course for Vets and Vet nurses at Looe, Cornwall. A course for South Kessock, Inverness, is also being planned.

"BDMLR is an amazing charity with local teams which work hard to respond round the clock to marine mammal emergencies. Our workload definitely went up after the Thames Whales as more people became aware of our charitable work. From such small beginnings the charity has really grown from strength to strength and it is impressive to see how we have grown as a voluntary body" said BDMLR chair Alan Knight OBE.

BDMLR has a wide range of members of the public who have trained to help marine life in need. Like Sharon Gisby a nurse in Kent, Faye Archell a teacher in Cornwall, Gavin Parsons a Photographer in London and Andrew Ireland a Communications Engineer in Aberdeenshire.

"Volunteers from BDMLR have also been involved in the rescue of several seals sucked into Dungeness Nuclear Power Station in Kent, the last rescue which was filmed and appeared on the BBC1 Animal 24:7 programme back in 2007. Members of BDMLR have also been involved in training the Royal Navy in the Falkland Islands, as well as whale groups and fisheries officers in Canada too" explained National Co-ordinator Trevor Weeks.

"One of BDMLR's greatest achievements has been the capture and relocation of four bottlenose dolphins from the last two dolphinarium in the UK as part of a joint project with the Born Free Foundation. This was an amazing success and the dolphins were flown and released back into the wild over in the Turks and Caicos Islands" said Alan.

BDMLR aims to run more courses than ever this year and wants to train as many medics as possible in order to help speed up their response to strandings and the effectiveness of the charity. Any able bodied member of the public can take part in a Marine Mammal Medic Course and learn how to help whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals stranded on our coastline. Courses cost £90 for the one day course. More information is available on courses under the .

Press Contacts:
BDMLR Chairman: Alan Knight OBE, 01825 765546 or 07831 371599
BDMLR National Co-ordinator: Trevor Weeks, 01825 765546 or 07931 523958
BDMLR Scottish Co-ordinator: Jamie Dyer, 07969 909692