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More marine animals are washing up dead in Cornwall

More marine animals are washing up dead in Cornwall

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:44am 16th September 2019. (Updated at 8:10am 16th September 2019)

WARNING: You may find the images in this article upsetting

More and more marine animals are washing up dead around the coast of Cornwall.

Over 250 whales, dolphins and porpoises were discovered the year before last.

Nationwide, the number of strandings has reached almost 5,000 since the start of 2011.

That is a seven-year record and includes a 15% rise in short-beaked common dolphins in the Duchy.

stranded common dolphin 2
More and more marine animals are washing up dead on the Cornish coast. Photo: Nick Dunstone

What do the figures show?

The worrying figures have been revealed in a seven-year review by the government, led by the Zoological Society of London.

A total of 4896 harbour porpoises, dolphins and whales were reported washed up on UK shores between January 2011 and December 2017.

They recorded 21 different species of cetacean, as well as six species of marine turtle and several species of large-bodied sharks.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Marine Strandings Network has been recording strandings for over 27 years.

The report highlights that during 2017 alone, 255 marine animals were washed ashore in the Duchy.

During the seven year period from 2011 to 2017 there was a 15% increase in cetacean strandings, including a rise in short-beaked common dolphins in Cornwall.

You can read the most recent report for marine strandings in Cornwall here.

Stranded porpoise scene
A report has revealed 255 whales, dolphins and porpoises were stranded in Cornwall in 2017 alone. Photo Jeff Loveridge

Why the increase?

Unfortunately, bycatch (accidental entanglement in fishing gear) is one of the most common causes of death for all cetaceans around the UK, accounting for 23% of common dolphin and 14% of harbour porpoise deaths. 

Here in Cornwall, we have seen an increase in the number of dolphins found with marks and wounds consistent with entanglement in nets and other fishing gear; 20% in 2017 and 31% in 2018.

"The south-west of the UK is a hot spot for dolphin and porpoise activity, as well as for water users and fisheries. 

"By monitoring strandings as well as collecting important sightings, through the Marine Strandings Network and surveys of life dolphins and porpoise through Seaquest Southwest, we are getting a real insight into the health of our incredible marine wildlife and wider environment of Cornwall".

Niki Clear, Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Stranded whale
The review, led by the Zoological Society of London, found that the number of strandings across the UK has reached almost 5,000 in last seven years.

"4,896 is an increase of about 15% on the previous seven-year period. It's difficult to say conclusively what's driven this rise, but it's potentially associated with multiple causes, including increases in local reporting effort and seasonal variation in the population density of some species. 

"As both nets and propellers can cause characteristic injuries, we can readily diagnose causes of death which are directly related to human activity, such as bycatch and ship-strike. 

"However, the total proportion of deaths linked to the impact of humans is actually likely to be higher over the period covered by this report. 

"For example, cases of infectious disease may be associated with exposure to chemical pollution, including legacy pollutants such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), which can have immunosuppressive effects".

Rob Deaville, Zoological Society of London

How can I report a stranding?

Cornwall Wildlife Trust as asking anyone on the cliffs and beaches to let us know if you find a dead marine animal washed up, by calling the MSN Strandings Hotline on 0234 201 2626.

If you are lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins or porpoise around the coast, please make your sighting count and let Seaquest Southwest know.

You can read more about reporting marine strandings in Cornwall here.

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