Cornwall’s dolphins and porpoises urgently need your help!

Thursday 1st February 2018

Cornwall Wildlife Trust has launched an urgent appeal for funds to pay for vital research to discover why so many marine mammals are stranding on our beaches.

Cornwall sees a phenomenal 20% of all UK strandings, including seals, porpoises, sharks, turtles and rare bottlenose dolphins. In fact, 2017 was a devastating year for our dolphins and porpoise. A total of 249 cetaceans were recorded as Marine Strandings along the Cornish coastline. This figure was alarmingly high, the highest recorded since 2003.

Furthermore, scientists estimate that only 5-10% of animals dying at sea ever get washed ashore, meaning last year the total off Cornwall could have been closer to between 2,490 and 4,980 individual animals.

In order to take action and protect Cornwall’s marine wildlife, the Trust needs to establish what factors are causing these unusually high numbers of strandings. Only by analysing the data, together with fisheries and other environmental data will they then be able to take effective action.

Without this research and the continuing work of the Marine Strandings Network the Trust believes that many more cetaceans will die and they have set an urgent appeal target of £16,000.

Ruth Williams, Marine Conservation Manager for the Trust says

“We urgently need to raise £16,000 in order to act effectively now. Every donation brings us closer to saving these majestic creatures and your contribution will be greatly appreciated. It’s a heart-wrenching sight to see beautiful animals dead on the beach.”

You can help by texting STRA18 £3, £5 or £10 to 70070 now, or donations can also be made via https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/cornwallwildlifetrust/marin...

A donation of £10 will buy one stranding kit for a volunteer, £20 will buy one specific Bottlenose dolphin and seal sampling kit, £150 will pay for one staff member’s time to analyse data against fishing activity and other parameters, £360 will provide 1,000 strandings tags for recording carcasses, £400 will buy two cameras for evidencing external injuries, and a £1,000 donation would train 20 volunteers to gather accurate evidence.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust developed the Marine Strandings Network over 25 years ago and to date is now the recognised recorder of dead dolphins and other marine wildlife for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly under a partnership with the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme coordinated nationally by the Institute of Zoology.

The Network has a Strandings Hotline which is manned by volunteers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to receive reports of dead dolphins and other marine creatures from the public, phone number 0345 2012626.

No other organisation in the UK is doing this work on such a large scale but they are struggling with a lack of resources which is why financial help is needed.

When the Hotline number is called one of the 120-strong volunteer team goes out and records the stranding by photographing and collecting vital data from the dead creature. They also secure and deliver the suitable carcasses for post mortem examination, to help determine the cause of death and identify threats to their survival.

Recording stranded animals provides vital information to help determine cause of death and identify threats to their survival.

Strandings can occur for many reasons that range from infectious diseases, pollution, and starvation to boat strikes. Based on research to date, among the key local threats are accidental entanglement in fishing nets, known as bycatch, which can be recognised from specific injuries such as encircling marks, cuts to the fins and mouth, and broken beaks.

Some of these threats the Trust can’t do anything about, but there are simple solutions to others, such as bycatch mitigation in the form of ‘pingers’, which are acoustic deterrent devices on fishing nets. They also want to influence policy decisions to better protect these magnificent creatures.

Nick Tregenza, Vice-President of Cornwall Wildlife Trust, says,

“Strandings are the main driver of political action on the incidental capture of porpoises and dolphins in fishing gear. It’s vital that we get really good data on them, and this project does that”.