CSI of the Sea (online event)

Every year around 600 porpoises, dolphins and whales (collectively known as cetaceans) strand around the UK coast. Why do these stranding events occur and what role does bycatch (accidental entanglement in fishing gear) play? 

Following the success of previous events at the Zoological Society of London, an online-only event allowed viwers to see behind-the-scenes at ZSL and observe a dolphin post-mortem taking place in real-time, revealing the important work of the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP)

The event was streamed live on Monday 12 March 2018.  A recording of the event is available below, giving you the opportunity to hear from our experts as they demonstrate how vital information is gathered and analysed, how the cause of death is determined, and what this unique research can tell us about the impact of bycatch on cetaceans in UK waters.

Warning: Please be aware that the event features film footage of a dolphin dissection taking place.

Following the procedure and further analysis, the team concluded:

"This was a 185cm long juvenile female common dolphin that was found dead stranded at Torre Abbey Sands in Torquay on 23rd February 2018 (SW2018/87).  Examination found that the dolphin was in good nutritional condition at death.  The dorsal muscles were well developed and dorsal subcutaneous fat deposits were also noted.  Multiple parallel linear cuts were present on the leading edges of the tail flukes, adjacent to the insertion into the tailstock and at the base of the leading edge of the dorsal fin (~2mm width).  Multiple circumscribing linear impressions were also present around the head, just cranial to the pectoral fins.  Multiple linear impressions were present on the left to ventral abdominal region and on the leading edge and cranial aspect of the right pectoral fin.  Evidence of recent feeding was noted, with some semi-digested fish and digesta in the gastrointestinal tract.  An area of haemorrhage was also noted in the dorsal thoracic vasculature (rete mirabile).  No significant evidence of underlying disease was found.

The multiple netmarks, good nutritional condition, internal trauma and evidence of recent feeding are all considered to be consistent with bycatch (incidental entrapment in fishing gear)."

Close-up of dorsal fin, showing netmark on the leading edge
Dorsal fin of dolphin showing netmark

The UK Cetaceans Strandings Investigation Programme is co-funded by Defra and the Devolved Governments in Scotland and Wales.  For more information about the programme please visit www.ukstrandings.org

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This event was run as part of British Science Week, the UK's biggest celebration of science.




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