Meet Scilly’s newest Marine Mammal Medics!

Monday 30th April 2018

Meet Scilly’s newest Marine Mammal Medics!Meet Scilly’s newest Marine Mammal Medics!

It’s been 10 years since British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) last ran a Marine Mammal Medic course on the Islands and for the last few years resident vet Heike has been supported with strandings and rescues of marine life by a couple of stalwarts, as well as members of the local dive community, Vet Support Group and other interested individuals.

Now, thanks to organisation and funding from the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust and Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the committed team from BDMLR the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust is pleased to announce that there are now a whole bunch (17 to be exact) of new BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic volunteers trained up to assist with seal, cetacean and turtle rescues when they are required.

Sarah Mason (CEO Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust) shared: “Our team is incredibly small, with a huge responsibility, and as a result we simply can’t be everywhere and do everything that people often expect us to do. When wildlife is in trouble people automatically contact us but we don’t have the skills or the resources to be able to manage these situations; consequently, we work very closely with Heike and BDMLR, who are the experts when it comes to our marine wildlife, to ensure that the best outcomes are secured in any given situation.

This winter we saw an unprecedented number of seal pups requiring assistance across the Islands and it became evident that the BDMLR pool of on Island volunteers had shrunk quite considerably so we decided to do something about it.

Working in partnership with BDMLR, and with the support of AONB funding, we have managed to put on the training at no cost to the attendees.”

Nikki Banfield (Communications Officer, Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust) added: “The big winter storms that coincided with the spring tides meant it wasn’t just our seal pups that were struggling; some breeding populations lost as many as 75-85% of their pups. The plight of the seals made local and national news and on the back of that we announced the free training opportunity, so there was a lot of interest and it’s fantastic to see so many people taking part.

Arranging these types of events is always challenging and made even more so as a result of the “Scilly-factor”; it’s not just a case of calling trainers and asking them to pop across for a day and do their thing. The logistics of getting them and their equipment here and everything else that goes with that is incredibly time consuming; then there’s the weather to contend with.

Knowing that Heike & BDMLR now have a small army of Scilly volunteers to assist throughout the year it’s definitely worth it though.”

Attendees have learnt all about seals, cetaceans, seabirds and turtles during the Marine Mammal Medic Training and they’ve also carried out practical workshops and assessments on the beach with stranded and injured model cetaceans & seals.

Liz Stevenson (newly trained Scilly BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic) said: “It was a really good experience. The BDMLR team were knowledgeable and the training was thorough. The hands-on session was my favourite part. The dummy seals and dolphins on Porthmellon beach gave us all the opportunity to practice techniques to handle stranded animals safely”

Stu Bars (newly trained Scilly BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic) shared: “There was a lot of information, from a really broad range of staff. The sessions were very well planned, as they broke up all the power point and teaching with actual stories of real rescues. The content was all backed up in a Marine Medic manual, for new staff to get to grips with the new role, as there is a lot to remember.

After this winter and seeing all stranded seals on the island, and not really knowing what to look for, I’m really pleased I might be able to put my new skills to use this winter and maybe be part of the team that recovers any stranded sea life. The instructors were really approachable, and full of good advice and story’s of their own first times in the role.”

Dan Jarvis (Welfare Development and Field Support Officer, BDMLR) concluded: "We are incredibly grateful to the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for facilitating and funding the marine mammal rescue training course with British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

Its been ten years since we last ran a course on Scilly, and after a very busy winter for seal pup rescues it was important that we get some more volunteer support for Heike and the others.

We had 17 very enthusiastic trainees join us on the day and they are all now ready to respond to any marine mammals that might need help whenever they are needed.

The course itself went very smoothly thanks to the planning and organisational skills of Nikki Banfield and we would like to extend a special thank you to her for putting the wheels in motion for getting this to happen. We look forward to working with our new team in the future!"

This training was provided free of charge to attendees and this was made possible with thanks to the following:

  • Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust & Isles of Scilly AONB for all arrangements and also funding instructors accommodation, travel and the cost of the training (including insurances), venue and refreshments;
  • BDMLR Trainers Dan, Jes, Justin and Cheryl for providing their expertise and time at no additional cost, despite having to be on the Islands for 3 days and having a pretty rough Scillonian crossing;
  • The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group for waiving the excess baggage charge for the equipment that was required to carry out the training;

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those who attended, many of whom also attended the Marine Strandings Network Training hosted by Cornwall Wildlife Trust the following day (but more about that shortly), and On the Quay for delivering sustenance to the training location.

The visitor season is just starting and we know everyone is incredibly busy so to give up a day of your time in order to become trained volunteers is much appreciated. We know that Heike is incredibly grateful too and is really pleased that she now has a few extra hands to call on if/when they are required.

A big thank you and welcome to the Islands newest BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic volunteers!

Tagged with: Volunteering