Striped Dolphin Stranding, Cornwall

On Saturday 17 February British Divers Marine Life Rescue was alerted to a stranded dolphin at Praa Sands in Cornwall with members of the public attempting to refloat it despite dangerously rough surf and poor weather conditions.

On arrival the first Medics were able to take control and recovered the dolphin, which was being washed up the beach by the waves. It was found to be a striped dolphin, infrequently recorded in the UK as it is a warmer-water species usually found in the Bay of Biscay. Many stranded striped dolphins in the UK have been found in poor nutritional condition with underlying health issues, so typically have to be put to sleep on that basis, however on this occasion the dolphin was assessed to be in moderate condition, making it a possible candidate to be refloated.

Further assessment showed minor injuries caused by stranding plus some old wounds and it was evidently very stressed. Attending veterinarians agreed that a refloat attempt would be possible, however it was not safe to do this at the current site and it was decided it would be transported to Carbis Bay, where it would be more sheltered and safer for the team to give the dolphin its best chance of getting back out.

A Medic travelled alongside the dolphin to the site where it was allowed time to recover properly before being released. From here it spent some time swimming erratically parallel to the shore, coming closer in occasionally but then eventually moved further out. The team searched along the beach but there were no further sightings and so Medics were stood down.

The following morning, Medics were already out searching the area when a call came in of a dolphin in the surf at Hayle, so a team was deployed with a veterinarian again. It was clear from its behaviour in the water that its health had declined, and the breathing rate remained erratic despite first aid. Due to these factors and concern about other underlying health issues, it was decided euthanasia would be the best option for its welfare.

Following an efficient and painless procedure, it was taken for post mortem examination with Cornwall Marine Pathology Team, where a lot of useful feedback can be provided from their findings to tell us more about this dolphin’s life.

We would like to thank all our team that attended this incident, along with Penzance Coastguard Rescue Team, members of the public, Cornwall Marine Pathology Team and the Carbis Bay Hotel for their hospitality.