New whale rescue pontoon is installed

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The team which carry out whale and dolphin rescues along the coast in the north west of Scotland has launched a new whale rescue pontoon.

The Skye and Wester Ross British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) were able to install the facility following a successful online appeal to locate rescue equipment on the west coast.

After a mass stranding of 21 pilot whales at the start of May at Staffin in Skye it was realised that whilst efforts were being made to train up more marine medics to respond in such situations, the north west Highlands had no rescue pontoon and had to rely on teams as far away as Dundee to supply the rescue kit during such events.

An online appeal was set up in an effort to secure £4,000 towards a pontoon with the expectation that this combined with a shore based ‘Pirate Ceilidh’ in July would hopefully raise the target amount.

However, the online appeal quickly gathered attention throughout Scotland and elsewhere internationally and had actually gathered over £4,000 in less than four days.

The pontoon was unveiled at Ullapool’s annual Pier Day that saw a number of wildlife groups such as Scottish Wildlife Trust, the RSPB Sea Eagle project and Marine Conservation Society join local Highland Council Rangers in holding stalls and activities at Ullapool Harbour.

The whale rescue pontoon is based on a model designed by Project Jonah in New Zealand who have pioneered much of the training and methods used by BDMLR in the UK when responding to whale and dolphin stranding.

The pontoon has an extra local importance having been dedicated to James Stewart, a local man that trained to become a Marine Mammal Medic with BDMLR but sadly succumbed to motor neurone disease earlier this year.

It was felt that keeping James’s memory with the team on the rescue pontoon would offer a means of remembering his love of the Highlands and its wildlife and nature.

More information about BDMLR and the training they offer throughout the UK can be found at www.bdmlr.org.uk

Pictured are Alice Keppel and Frances Ross, James’s wife and sister with the new equipment