Posted by: The ocean update | February 2, 2016

UK public urged to watch out for seal and dolphin strandings

February 2nd, 2016. The Southwest is seeing a rise in dead and injured seals and dolphins and public action can help.

There are so many weather warming and storm forecasts these days that it becomes difficult keeping up with which weather system is causing which bit of damage. One minute we have Gertrude heading in with the threat of further flooding and then there is a Jonas or a Henry coming out us with more wind and rain. As if to taunt me, the heavens have opened here as I write this. The floods in the north of England and the rising river levels are a cause of great concern, and it is clear that something needs to be done to safeguard these areas in the future. Down in the Southwest, we are also far too aware of the effects that this wild weather can have on our delicate landscape.

Cornwall has seen a rise in strandings and the public are being urged to look out for dead and injured animals.

It has now been two years since the seafront of Dawlish was destroyed by powerful waves and large parts of on the Devon and Cornwall rail network were cut off from the rest of the country. As more wind and rain batters the region, it is natural that we keep one eye on our seas in the hope that all the repairs hold and we are not faced with more destruction. There is, however, another important reason for keeping an eye on the coast and the beaches of the region this month – more and more seals and cetaceans are being discovered dead on our shores. Cornwall has more than its fair share of strandings and deaths, around 25% of the UK total, it comes with the landscape. This year has been even worse. The yearly average for washed up cetaceans is 11 ; according to Cornwall Wildlife Trust, there were 19 in January.

As the country continues looks towards Skegness and mourn the tragic deaths of those magnificent sperm whales, there are fresh calls for public awareness about other, more common strandings. The Cornwall Wildlife Trust are asking the public to be on the look out for stranded or dead animals and to contact them as soon as possible via the 24 hour Marine Stranding Network hotline. A live dolphin may have a better chance if their experienced team get reach the scene in time and any stranded seal pups can be taken to the Cornish Seal sanctuary at Gweek. Gweek certainly have their hands full at the moment, with the increased number of pups and the inability to release any rehabilitated charges. Over a normal winter, they expect to see 50 to 60 pups but have already brought in 52.

All reports can have a positive, practical impact.

It is important that any sighting is reported, dead or alive, so that some good can come from the situation. It should go without saying that this doesn’t mean stripping the animal down for parts and taking trophies, but some individuals have tried to do this with those whales. A dead animal cannot be saved but it can be studied. One of the positives coming from the situation with the sperm whales is the chance to study the creatures to find out more about them and the circumstances that may have led to their death. While the death of a common dolphin may not seem as significant as that of a rare sperm whale, a post mortem can still provide valuable information.

We don’t know how long these storms are going to continue and how many lives they will claim, but the sense of dread that now comes with the arrival of February also means that we have a month of vigilant sea-watching ahead of us.

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