Ullapool hosts Whale and Dolphin Rescue Course

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British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) are holding a Marine Mammal Medic training event at Ullapool’s MacPhail Centre on the 29th March that teaches trainees how to help rescue stranded whales, dolphin and seals.

BDMLR was formed in 1988 in response to a mass mortality of Harbour Seal in East Anglia and in the years since has become active in rescuing whales, dolphin and seals around the coast of all the UK. The course and techniques have been led by developments in New Zealand and Hawaii and has resulted in thousands of people being taught how to take part in rescuing stranded whales, dolphin and seal that can be injured or become washed up on the coast of the UK. A voluntary network of trained marine mammal medics respond to call outs from the general public, HM Coastguard, Police, RSPCA and SSPCA and are the only marine animal rescue organisation operating across England, Wales and Scotland. As well as trained medics, the organisation has a wide range of equipment strategically placed throughout the country to deal with strandings of marine animals, oil spills, fishing gear entanglement and any type of marine animal in trouble. This includes rescue boats, equipment trailers, whale and dolphin pontoon sets, a whale disentanglement kit and each area has a medic kit with essential supplies.

A mass stranding of almost 70 Pilot Whales at Durness in 2011 saw the volunteers successfully return 44 whales to sea, a record for Europe and still deemed an international achievement. Despite the success of this rescue, the incident highlighted the fact that despite having some of the highest cetacean activity in Europe, the Highlands are one of the least well equipped and have few trained medics to assist in such incidents. BDMLR teams are based throughout the UK but time is often critical in whether or not a rescue will prove successful and having local medic on hand is vital for the chances of saving animals in difficulty around the coast of Scotland.

Newly appointed BDMLR Skye and Wester Ross Area Co-ordinator Noel Hawkins who is based in Ullapool is appealing for anyone interested in wildlife to consider attending the Ullapool course later this month.

“Living in the Highlands we are very connected to our wildlife and environment and am sure most of us realise how fortunate we are having regular visits from whales and dolphin in our waters as well as resident porpoise and seal colonies along the coast. Not only are we privileged to have such animals on our doorstep but there can be no doubt that these animals are an asset to the region in terms of attracting visitors and tourists who come to see and share our wildlife. The risk of a serious stranding occurring without adequate numbers of trained medics would prove a tragedy for the animals but also be detrimental to how the Highlands are perceived in terms of caring and looking after our nature and environment. A recent mass stranding in New Zealand saw over 500 trained people attend and assist within hours. In the Highlands just now we would be lucky to achieve over 20 but have the potential to experience a similar situation at any time. I know and meet hundreds of walkers, divers, kayakers and other nature lovers who enjoy their spare time exploring and appreciating our coast, beaches, shores and wildlife and I would like to invite them to consider taking part in our training and assist contributing to safeguarding our natural heritage. Not only is the training invaluable if we were to have a stranding but is also fun and informative, teaching trainee medics more about the animals we have here and provides a great opportunity to meet others that share a love of our wildlife and nature.”

The course offers a classroom based morning session followed by an afternoon rescue simulation at the beach using life sized whale and dolphin models with actual rescue pontoons. Despite the name, medics do not require diving experience. Medics come from all backgrounds and the only requirement is a passion for wildlife and desire to help protect it. Wet and/or dry suits are required and under 16 year olds will only be considered if accompanied by an adult and cannot take part in actual rescues until over 16.

For more information or to book a place on the Ullapool course or any of the other courses held elsewhere in Scotland and UK, please visit the charity’s website at www.bdmlr.org.uk