Harbour Porpoise Stranding in Chapel St Leonards

On Thursday 26 August around 11:50am, BDMLR were alerted to a stranded porpoise on the beach at Chapel St Leonards, Lincolnshire.

After an initial assessment from our Marine Mammal Medic volunteers, the team determined the animal was a juvenile female in surprisingly moderate health with no visible signs of trauma or injury. With the weather rapidly worsening, the decision was made to attempt to refloat the porpoise back out to sea as soon as possible after veterinary consultation.

Unfortunately, within a few minutes of being in the water, the sea became rougher by the second, with waves bashing into our Medics and the porpoise pushing them closer to shore, so it became clear that our usual refloat method was not going to work. For the safety of our volunteers and the wellbeing of the porpoise, the RNLI were called upon for further assistance.

The swell continued to increase, and RNLI Skegness had to battle through severe conditions to reach the scene. When they arrived, the porpoise was lifted safely onto their inshore lifeboat and they headed out to sea. She was then gently lowered over the side of the boat into the sea where she was refloated successfully and appeared to swim off strongly. The weather again drastically changed making it far too dangerous for the lifeboat to return to the shore, so a rapid beach landing was performed instead in Skegness.

Devastatingly, on our team’s return to Chapel St Leonards, there was another callout to a stranded porpoise, to which they promptly responded and began searching for along the coast. Sadly, the same animal had re-stranded 3 miles away at Ingoldmells. This time, she had suffered extensive injuries as unfortunately well-meaning members of the public had dragged her off the rocks where they had found her in attempt to get her back into the water.

The poor weather persisted and it was clear that refloating her was going to prove very difficult, and there would be no guarantee that she would even survive the attempt, especially as the first try had appeared to fail even before she had acquired these new injuries. Veterinary assistance was requested, and she was eventually transported to a veterinary practice where she was peacefully euthanised at 9:22pm.

It was not the ending any of us were hoping for after such a long and arduous day, but we wanted to send a very special thank you to our Medics involved for their incredible effort and dedication, and also to the outstanding bravery of RNLI Skegness for attending in such dangerous conditions.

If you find a stranded porpoise, dolphin or whale, please do not touch or move them. Please first call our emergency rescue line on 01825 765546 to report the animal for advice and we will dispatch trained Medics to attend the scene with the appropriate PPE and equipment. This is for your own protection from diseases as well as for the safety of the animal – as we can see with this case, sometimes dragging them back into the sea can do more harm than good. To find out more about what to do when you find a marine mammal, click here.

Photo: Ed Martin