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


2013-08-22 11:19:04

River Dee Dolphin rescued and taken out to sea

Please see final update at bottom of page - dolphin has now been transported out to sea and successfully released.


Whilst elsewhere in the UK BDMLR volunteers are out daily on other rescues (especially common seals at the moment), those near the River Dee on the English/Welsh border have a slightly different concern.

On the evening of Monday 19th August, reports came in of what was thought to be a porpoise at Connah's Quay in Flintshire on the banks of the Dee, but it was not distressed and was feeding so BDMLR advised locals but did not attend.  It wouldn't be too unusual for a porpoise to be in that area.

The following day,Tuesday 20th August, photographs that had appeared on the internet overnight showed it to actually be a common dolphin, so our concerns were raised when it was reported as still being in the Dee, but mid-way to Chester.  Common dolphins prefer deeper waters and rarely enter rivers, but this animal may have been chasing fish into the Dee estuary and up the river. Once there, it may experience problems getting back out due to the high flooding tides associated with the local waters, especially on spring tides as currently.  BDMLR volunteers, along with members of the Coastguard and helpful members of the public, tracked the dolphin from the shore as it swam all the way up to Chester, and then turned back seawards. After a long day and many miles, it was seen heading out towards Flint in the estuary as daylight failed at around 9pm and the teams were stood down.

Yesterday, Wednesday 21st August, BDMLR received a call to say that the dolphin was sadly back in the River close to Saltney.  BDMLR volunteers, members of the Coastguard and locals again monitored its progress from the river banks and it repeated the journey of the previous day, swimming strongly and exhibiting feeding behaviour as had been observe on previous days. It reached the Connah's Quay area in late evening as the flooding tide entered the river and so was unable to swim back into the open sea.

This morning, Thursday 22nd August, it has been reported back in the river moving towards Chester. Volunteer marine mammal medics are again monitoring the animal and the coastguard are attending as there is a concern for public safety as crowds have gathered.  The plan is still one of non-intervention as it is in the water and feeding. However, if it does strand it will be assessed and if suitable, will be uplifted and transported either by sea or road to a suitable release point near open water.  The coastguard and RNLI have offered assistance if necessary.

The dolphin still is looking strong and healthy, with no signs of physical trauma. However, last night it was showing signs of being agitated by crowd activity.

12.00hrs VERY LATEST!

The dolphin has stranded at around midday today and BDMLR volunteer medic and members of the Coastguard uplifted it to a lifeboat and are now transporting it out to deeper waters. The dolphin is in good shape physically and showing no signs of stress.

The dolphin stranded about two miles away from Saltney, towards Chester. When our medic Steve O'Connor arrived, it had been surrounded by members of the public but the coastguard were already there and following our discussions previously, had made the decision to uplift it.

The inshore D class lifeboat from Flint was called and the dolphin made comfortable on board. After refuelling at Flint, the D2 will rendezvous with the Mersey class all-weather lifeboat from Ryhll at sea and both boats are on their way. They will then be escorted out to deeper water to release the dolphin, that is still showing no signs of stress and being cared for by our volunteer and crew.

14.30hrs Update

About 6 miles out to sea and in at least 18 metres of water, the female dolphin was put over the side of the lifeboat in a sling stretcher, with a couple of RNLI on either side to gently rock the dolphin as per BDMLR protocol. This helps to restore the animal's equilibrium and recirculate any fluids that may have built up on one side. However, as the dolphin had not been stranded long, it gave all the right signs for release and as BDMLR medic Steve O'Connor on the lifeboat says, 'went off like a rocket' after a few minutes. Both boats then returned to their respective bases.

Please note that we do not have photographs, video or any further information at this time.

Many thanks to all involved over the last few days, including BDMLR volunteers Ceri Jones, Pippa Mahen, Scott Andrews, Sarah Tijon, Steve O'Connor, BDMLR staff Julia Cable and Stephen Marsh, the Coastguard, RNLI, Environment Agency and Tom McGovern.

Stephen Marsh
BDMLR Operations Manager

Leaping dolphin pic: Environment Agency  Rescue pic: PA