September 30, 2008

No Funds for Post-Mortem on Remains of Porpoise

A dead porpoise was found washed up on a Brixham beach on Thursday - the fourth found on Devon beaches this month.

The animals have been found at Bigbury, Beesands, Scabbacombe and, most recently, St Mary's beach near Sharkham Point, Brixham.

But rather than being taken for post-mortem analysis, the creatures had to be disposed of by local councils in landfill sites.

This is due to a drop in funding for the National History Museum in London, which used to collect all animals washed up on British beaches to discover how they had died.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs cut the museum's budget 18 months ago, leading to a limit on the work it can do in this field.

Linda Hingley, from Brixham Seawatch, who has spent the last 20 years campaigning for the protection of whales, dolphins and porpoises, said: "They're very selective now. For the past 15 years, every whale, dolphin or porpoise went to them, as long as you could physically get to it and it was fresh.

"But I sense that because the funding has been cut they are not so interested now."

She is worried about the situation, as the post-mortem examinations led to revealing statistics about the deaths - including that 85 per cent of the animals found had died after getting caught up in fishing gear.

Ms Hingley said: "Even if they are dying for other reasons, such as if they are carrying any diseases, we need to know, as they are very similar to humans.

"We have amassed a huge amount of knowledge of these creatures from the work that has been done. We could lose that body of knowledge."

She is concerned to see the creatures dumped in landfill with household waste, and also points out that their removal now comes at a cost to the local council.

(c) 2008 Western Morning News, The Plymouth (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.