Marine conservation charities British Divers Marine Life Rescue and Marine Connection are advising people to act with caution around Cornwall’s latest unusual visitor. A lone bottlenose dolphin has turned up in the area recently, spending most of its time around the Isles of Scilly, but has also been frequenting waters around the coast of Cornwall, attracting a lot of attention.
This animal is known to the groups as a ‘social solitary’ dolphin, a highly unusual circumstance where an individual chooses to interact primarily with people and watercraft over living with other dolphins. They often display behaviours such as following boats, spending time inside harbours, and even coming amongst swimmers, which can understandably elicit a lot of excitement from observers. This particular individual is known to have visited Scilly in June 2020, and since then has also been seen in County Cork, Ireland.
BDMLR Area Coordinator Dan Jarvis said “Yesterday afternoon we had a call about a dolphin in St Ives harbour, which turned out to be the new social solitary bottlenose dolphin who has been called ‘Nick’. It later turned up in Hayle harbour and came in amongst a large group of people, mostly children, who were already in the water and began interacting with them quite boisterously. After a little while it became obvious that the dolphin’s behaviour was escalating and becoming more erratic, so we were very concerned that someone would get injured. Hayle Surf Life Saving Club who were also monitoring the situation with us, also advised people to leave the water for their safety and their boat was then used to lure the animal back out to sea before the outgoing tide trapped it”.
Marine Connection Co-Founder Liz Sandeman comments “Sadly, the more these dolphins become habituated through prolonged human contact and behaviours like this develop, the greater the potential for accidents and injury to both the dolphin and members of the public to occur. Dolphins are powerful marine mammals and have been known to, albeit unintentionally at times, seriously injure people when thrashing their tail or even butting them with their snout. There is also concern for the welfare of the dolphin which itself can become injured, sometimes fatally. The last such dolphin in the region, which had become known as ‘Danny’, frequented the coast of Dorset and was killed in December 2020 after being struck by a boat propeller, and sadly was just the latest in a shockingly long list of such incidents, which can be avoided if due care is taken and advice followed.” The two charities are working together to raise awareness of the unique situation around this dolphin, and are urging people who encounter it to act with caution as its behaviour will not be like that of other dolphins and could be much more unpredictable. Advice includes not purposely going into the water to play with it, to not feed it, to keep boats moving at a steady course and speed and to avoid chasing and fast manoeuvres.
The Marine Connection has previously produced a report on social solitary dolphins and the issues around them called ‘Lone Rangers’, which you can download and view here: http://marineconnection.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Lone-Rangers-Second-Edition-2019.pdf
Photo: Constance Morris, Cornwall Coast Photography
Video: Dan Jarvis, BDMLR