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Whale, dolphin and porpoise strandings

14 Posts tagged with the harbour_porpoise tag

The dolphin that recently appeared in the River Dee in Wales was fortunate to survive. Being a marine species, it was not used to a fresh water environment and very nearly perished after beaching on a sand bank. Fortunately, the RNLI were able to rescue the animal and return it to the sea where it could more easily hunt and find food.


Not all marine cetaceans that find themselves caught upriver are so fortunate. On Tuesday 27 August, at around 8.30pm, Greg Fonne took the following image from the Thames embankment, just east of Tower Bridge.


harbour-porpoise-river-dee.jpgThe animal in question appears to be a Harbour Porpoise, or Phocoena phocoena.

The Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (of which we are a part) records around 300 cases of dead Harbour Porpoise on UK coasts each year. On many occasions, we collect the bodies, and take them for post-mortem examination. This is because we want to find out the cause of death, as well as monitoring levels of disease, toxins and pollutants, parasites, and all kinds of things that can only be discovered from taking a look inside the animal.


This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Museum's whale and dolphin strandings monitoring programme. This porpoise found in the Thames will add to our data which shows us how populations are changing.


Cetacean statistics


Our data shows that in recent decades, the number of reports has increased dramatically. This could be explained by an increase in strandings, as well as an increase in communication methods and their ease of use and, of course, by the ever increasing human population with their eyes on the coast.


While the death of these beautiful animals seems a somewhat tragic event, an increase in the number of strandings is not necessarily a bad thing. It is evidence that the animals are living in UK waters, and surviving to breeding age. Through our work, which is government funded, we can keep watch on the effects of human behaviours on cetacean species.


Please help us to continue our work by spreading the word about the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme, and by following us on twitter @WhaleStrandings.


Find out more about the Museum's Cetacean strandings project


Meet us in person at the Oceans Station at Science Uncovered on Friday 27 September


My line manager Brian is currently out picking up a harbour porpoise that live stranded in Essex over the weekend. Thanks to BDMLR,  Rosie and all those at the Wildlives  Rescue Centre for holding the animal for us, I know PM is never the out come you want (when rescue is the alternative) but hopefully we'll be able to find out why it stranded.

We also had a white beaked dolphin strand in Kent, sadly again BDMLR did all they could but couldn't save it so it's over to us. BDMLR have been little stars with this one as they have also delivered the animal to IoZ for post mortem. I'm afraid I don't have any names of the wonderful people that did this as the Project manager was dealing with it (and he's currently in Ireland) but a massive thanks to who ever you are!

(Should just add a quick note to keep the boss happy and say if you find a dead dolphin on the beach, please don't bung it in the back of a car and drive to London. BDMLR marine medics have all been trained and fully understand the health and safty issues involved in moving a cetacean!)




I particularly like this bit ‘"The porpoises have found a way to not only avoid the ships, but it's also the noise they make," says Keener.


Harbor porpoises haven't been seen in San Francisco Bay for more than 60 years. But now, they're coming back through the Golden Gate in growing numbers and researchers are trying to understand why they’re returning.






The best place to look for them is 220 feet above the water on the pedestrian walkway across the Golden Gate Bridge. That's where Bill Keener of Golden Gate Cetacean Research photographs them, holding a massive telephoto lens over the side of the railing.




"There's a porpoise right there, coming very, very close," he says pointing. A dark shape appears in the water. It's a harbor porpoise, coming up for air. "And here's a mother and calf coming straight at us."








It's been a busy week for pick ups, CSIP's head honcho Rob did a gallant round trip to Devon to pick up 2 animals and whilst on the road I got a call about a 3rd on Hayling Island beach. With a squeal of the brakes and a quick turn around Rob was able to squeeze the third animal in the back of his car.


There was then a 'mass' stranding in Kent, nr Folkstone. I say 'mass' as it was 2 animals, probably not quite what you'd term as mass but scientific history states 2 or more animals to be recorded as 'mass'. Unable to get anyone to check the animals were still there and not being too far away myself, I headed there on the Monday morning. I had a fun time scouting what is possibly one of the larges beaches I've ever seen for 2 not very large harbour porpoises. With the help of a very lovely couple (sorry I didn't get your names) we managed to track down the animals and secure them for pick up by James (who was on his way from the museum).


Unfortunately I've been unable to put up PM results so far as they all have to go to Defra first, but after talking to head honcho Rob he said we may be able to put up some basic results a bit sooner, fingers crossed!


2 head.JPG



Photo of one of the 'mass' strandings from New Romney, photo by Susanna Clerici


We've had quite a few reports in recently and I'd like to thank everyone that has reported to us. Even if the animal is just a bag of bones and blubber (it happens more then you'd think), we still want to hear about it!


Notably I'd like to thank the Reciever of Wreck and London coastguards who have helped us today with the pick up of a harbour porpoise, in Chiswick London.


Sadly a common dolphin at Shaldon beach, South Devon had to be disposed of as we couldn't organise a driver for it to be picked up (people are always busy during the school holidays), but a massive thanks to Sarah and Paul for all your help and I'm sorry we couldn't make it work.


Lastly a massive thanks to Dave and the owners of Woolacombe beach (nice work if you can get it), who helped us pick up a young common dolphin from North Devon a few weeks ago.


I've not updated for a few weeks as I've been on holiday and we've had a bit of a busy run of things.


A live stranded harbour porpoise on the Isle of Wight was picked up for pm by our team


I went to Dorset on Friday to pick up another porpoise that stranded in Dorset last week, a massive thank you to Dave and Dorset council for all their help!


It's not unusal for bottlenose dolphins to attack harbour porpoises, it's something we've known about for years and is often their largest cause of death here in the UK. I wanted to put the link up for this as I know it's not very commonly known about outside scientific cetacean research circles and also as it's very rare to get pictures.


It had two badly broken jawbones, fractured ribs on both sides and a broken scapula, evidence of a sadistic attack. Worst of all, the female porpoise, which had been seen twice before and identified by researchers in Monterey Bay, was lactating when she was killed, according to marine biologists.


It was a clear case of what scientists are calling "porpicide," the deliberate slaying of a harbor porpoise by a surprising and, to most people, unlikely culprit.


"We suspect that it was a bottlenose dolphin," said Bill Keener, a researcher for Golden Gate Cetacean Research.

The brutal battering wasn't an isolated incident. Scientists say there has been a dramatic increase in dolphin attacks on harbor porpoises along the California coast over the past few years, including an attack Wednesday off Half Moon Bay.


porpoise bnd attack.jpg

Read more:






Just this second got back from picking up a porpoise that was reported as live stranded in Ulrome. A MASSIVE thankyou to Tanya who was an amazing help with this animal (and who also has an absolutely beautiful baby girl).


The animal was male, and incredibly fresh as you can see in the photos. Hopfully the animal will be pm'd in the next few days but I know the boys at the Zoo are shattered after a long night pming a sowerbys beaked whale! Busy here at the moment.



Photo courtesy of Tanya



As always I'll post up cause of death, if known in a few weeks time when the pm results come back.


UPDATE: Cause of Death Category: Pneumonia, Parasitic.


Had a couple of animals coming in over the weekend at this stage they are all believed to be harbour porpoises, although I'm waiting on photos to confirm this.


1 came in on Berwick beach in Northumberland, thanks to the local council for all their help with this animal.

1 at Thurlstone beach in the Wirral, thanks to Gemma for reporting it and for still managing to find time to chat to me this morning dispite dogs and kids all wanting her attention!

Finally thanks to HM Coastguards at Happisburgh for reporting their porpoise that stranded at Cart Gap in Norfolk.


Thorpness porpoise

Posted by Strandings Officer Aug 8, 2011
Massive thankyou to Tim Kenny for reporting a harbour porpoise to us that had stranded at Thorpness in Suffolk. Sadly due to a mix of vets on holiday/being exusted from the pilot whales in Scotland and no space in the fridge or freezer, we were unable to collect this little guy for post mortem.

A few weeks ago we had a report of one harbour porpoise in Waxham and one unidentified (rather smelly) cetacean in Brancaster harbour.


A massive thanks to the coastguard for forwarding this information to us!


Just had a record of a rather decomposed harbour porpoise at Rossall beach, nr Fleetwood, Blackpool, I shall save you and not post the photo. First spotted a few weeks ago.


A second was seen at Blackpool South Beach a week later.


Thanks to David for these and many, many, many other reports!


Harbour porpoise stranded at Bridlington on Monday, looked like it hadn't be dead long but sadly we were unable to pick it up for post mortem.


Thanks to BDMLR for the report.


2 Suffolk strandings

Posted by Strandings Officer Jul 13, 2011

Two animals found at the same time in Felixstow, Suffolk this week.


SW2011/258 was a dolphin although due to it's decomposed state it is impossible to identify the species any further then possible common/striped.


SW2011/259 was a harbour porpoise, also very decomposed.




Thanks to David for the report!