The Hoylake RNLI hovercraft and New Brighton RNLI lifeboat were called upon to aid marine mammal medics in rescuing two dolphins that had become stranded and injured on a sandbank in the River Mersey.
On Sunday 26 February, a birdwatcher at Speke’s Oglet Shore spotted two distressed animals, prompting the Crosby Coastguard Rescue Team to summon the two Wirral RNLI crews.
Upon confirmation from a team of medics from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) that the animals were common dolphins, the Coastguard called for assistance from the Hoylake RNLI hovercraft and New Brighton RNLI lifeboat. As the sandbank was inaccessible due to the tide’s condition, the teams headed to the scene.
The lifeboat stood by in the river while the hovercraft landed on the shore. Two BDMLR medics were brought on board and flown to the sandbank, where the dolphins were found to be a mother and calf. Both were responsive but had some minor injuries caused by sea birds.
The RNLI crew assisted the medics in righting the calf and keeping the dolphins wet while first aid was given. With the tide flooding, the two agencies decided that transporting both dolphins on the hovercraft and lifeboat could not be done safely and would cause them further distress.
The RNLI crew and BDMLR medics agreed the best possible option was to wait for the incoming tide to cover the bank, allowing the dolphins a chance to swim away. The medics and RNLI crew carefully moved the calf closer to its mother and the pair began to communicate.
As the tide covered the bank, the RNLI crew and medics boarded the hovercraft and watched as the dolphins began to float and attempt to swim in the deepening water. The medics were then flown back ashore and the RNLI hovercraft and lifeboat stood down.
Hoylake RNLI Coxswain Howie Owen said, “The flooding tide meant the dolphins’ location on the sandbank would soon be covered by water. Our volunteer crews worked closely with the BDMLR medics to support them in safely carrying out their assessment and treatment. We were glad we could help them achieve the best outcome for the dolphins in the challenging circumstances.”
BDMLR Area Coordinator Chris Cureton said, “On arrival, we found the mother and calf stranded and both had scavenger damage around their eyes and blowholes. The calf was lying on its side, which isn’t a good position for a cetacean. We immediately righted it and treated both animals. Despite their injuries, we hope that the mother and calf will make it.”
In an emergency at the coast, always dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.
If members of the public find a stranded dolphin, porpoise or whale, they should call the BDMLR’s Rescue Hotline on 01825 765546
Image: The two dolphins had become stranded on a sandbank in the River Mersey and were assisted by the RNLI and BDMLR. Credit: Hoylake RNLI