Mass Stranding Exercises return!

For the first time since the pandemic began, we’ve been able to organise one of our Mass Stranding Exercises!

As you might guess, a MSE is a simulated scenario using several of our model pilot whales (and dolphin models standing in as whale calves!) that our volunteer Marine Mammal Medics come together to take part in over the course of a day to test their skills in strandings response and management. Our first event was held this weekend at Herne Bay, Kent, with 38 volunteers participating from across the south east England region.

The scenario involved ten stranded animals to begin with, and the Medics were given a staggered entry to the site similar to real life, so that only a small number of volunteers were on scene first and had to carry out the daunting task of taking control of the situation until more support and equipment arrived so they could hand over to the more experienced team members when they turned up. It was an especially hot day so overheating and sunburn were issues that the team were faced with mitigating, as well as responding to changes in animal health and behaviour as the scenario progressed (the team were also well looked after in being kept cool too!).

By the end of the day, four animals had been deemed in need of euthanasia due to serious health problems, two further animals stranded during the course of the incident and one excitable calf managed to get free and restrand. Eight animals were successfully refloated in all, including the restrandee!

The incident management team certainly had their work cut out for them as new scenarios developed during the course of the incident, having simulated ‘characters’ turn up to converse with, as well as regular communications with the BDMLR Head Office team to provide updates, get advice from the vet consultant and even to help prepare media statements.

Everyone did a fantastic job throughout the event where there were many opportunities to learn new skills, refresh with up to date knowledge, meet and work alongside new Medics, and above all have a good deal of fun at the same time! The event was also covered by both ITV and the BBC, so another chance to share with viewers what our charity is about.

Thank you to all involved with the organisation, set up, running and pack down of the whole event, and we now look forward to holding our next one soon.

Photos: Mark Stevens, Abs Ginimav, Christina Worth.