Wilhelmshaven (Germany), 3 September, 2021
More than 100 dead harbour porpoises have washed up on the beaches of the Dutch Wadden Sea islands of Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog in the last week, as reported by the University of Utrecht. The number of new carcasses has started decreasing so it is thought that the majority have already been washed ashore.
The porpoises are all showing similar levels of decomposition, but there is as yet no known cause for the deaths. Scientists from the University of Utrecht have collected 22 carcasses for post-mortem examinations and will in due course report on their findings. The ongoing work is a collaboration between the Dutch government, the universities of Utrecht and Wageningen and the volunteer stranding network.
No similar stranding has been seen anywhere else along the Wadden Sea coast, nor in Belgium, France or the UK. Due to their spatial proximity to the stranding event, the authorities from the National Park in Lower Saxony, Germany, are in regular contact with rangers and veterinarians to respond to unusual aggregations of stranded harbour porpoises.
Harbour porpoises were included in the trilateral Expert Group Marine Mammals in early 2021, as research about and understanding of the distribution and size of the local population has been limited to date. You can read more about the work of the Expert Group here.
Photo: Rob Knoeff – RTZ Nederland