Fascinating and saddening

Yesterday (Thursday 24th October) we had members of the public reporting one, or possibly two, beached cetaceans at St Bees beach.  When we headed down there we realised there was only one animal that had been moved by the tides so it had been mistaken for two different animals.  Unfortunately it was dead, and possibly had been for some time and it was likely that the sea had washed the carcass ashore.

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While it’s always sad to see such a thing, it also gives us a fascinating chance to get close to a creature we know is out there but never normally see.  This was an adult harbour porpoise, probably a female.  We are unsure of the cause of death.  There were a lot of injuries to the face/beak but these could have occurred after death in the sea or on land.  There were marks around the tail which could have been inflicted by a boat but, again, we have no way of telling if this was pre or post death.

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As with any stranding we reported this to the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP).  CSIP has been running since 1990 and is funded by Defra and the Devolved Administrations. They coordinate the investigation of all whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans), marine turtles and basking sharks that strand around the UK coastline.   As well as documenting each individual stranding, they also retrieve a proportion for investigation at post-mortem to allow them to establish a cause of death.  Strandings that undergo post-mortem examination provide valuable information on causes of death, disease, contaminants, reproductive patterns, diet and also useful pointers to the general health of the populations living in the seas around our coasts.  This provides useful baseline data to help detect outbreaks of disease or unusual increases in mortality. The CSIP depends on the public’s help in the reporting of strandings around the UK.

More information about the CSIP and what to do if you find a stranded animal can be found on their website or by reading their strandings leaflet which they have kindly let us share CSIP_leaflet

Due to the fact that the animal had been washed quite far up the beach by the recent high tides we also notified Copeland Borough Council (the beach owners) as they may decide to remove or dispose of the body.

Basking shark spotted

Last week a basking shark was spotted just south of the Colourful Coast area around Seascale/Sellafield.

Basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) are the second largest fish in the world and the largest shark we get in UK waters.  They can grow up to 11 feet or over 3 metres long.  They are regular visitors to the Irish Sea in the summer months, however these elusive creatures are rarely seen from the coast of Cumbria.

Don’t worry, there is no need to fear these gentle giants as they only eat plankton.  The warm, still weather and plentiful plankton could mean that now is a good time to spot our ocean giants such as basking sharks, dolphins and porpoises.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust are running regular SeaWatch events throughout the summer sp please check their website if you’d like to join in one of these events – you never know what you might spot.

 

An unfortunate discovery

While beach cleaning last week our Project Officer discovered a porpoise washed up on Whitehaven’s North Shore.  While the creature had clearly been dead for some time, so there was no question that it could be a live stranding, we still reported the individual to the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP).  They confirmed the individual as a female harbour porpoise due to the spade shaped teeth (dolphins have needle shaped teeth).  Due to the level of decomposition there was no way to determine cause of death.

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The UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) has been running since 1990 and is funded by Defra and the Devolved Administrations. They coordinate the investigation of all whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans), marine turtles and basking sharks that strand around the UK coastline.   As well as documenting each individual stranding, they also retrieve a proportion for investigation at post-mortem to allow them to establish a cause of death.  Strandings that undergo post-mortem examination provide valuable information on causes of death, disease, contaminants, reproductive patterns, diet and also useful pointers to the general health of the populations living in the seas around our coasts.  This provides useful baseline data to help detect outbreaks of disease or unusual increases in mortality. The CSIP depends on the publics help in the reporting of strandings around the UK.

More information about the CSIP and what to do if you find a stranded animal can be found on their website or by reading their strandings leaflet which they have kindly let us share CSIP_leaflet