BLUE HILL, Maine — A baby porpoise is swimming free off the waters of Blue Hill Harbor thanks to the efforts of three local organizations.
Staff members from the Kollegewidgwok Yacht Club and the Marine Environmental Research Institute, working under the auspices of Allied Whale at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, rescued the young porpoise after it became stranded under a floating dock at the yacht club earlier this week.
“The office here overlooks the dock, and I’d noticed there’d been a porpoise swimming around the dock for a long time,” said club manager Dave Danielson. “I thought it had probably been chasing a school of fish.”
One of the students at the yacht club’s sailing program, however, heard noises under the dock, peaked through the slots and saw a baby porpoise, which had become trapped. It had made its way up between two flotation devices so it could breath.
Danielson said he first contacted the whale rescue group at COA. Allied Whale has been authorized by NOAA Fisheries Service to respond to marine mammal emergencies from Rockland to the Canadian border. MERI, which conducts research on the impact of environmental pollutants on marine mammals, has worked with Allied Whale and has helped with emergency strandings in the Blue Hill area in the past.
After a brief discussion with Danielson and Kirk Trabant, MERI’s stranding specialist, Rosemary Seton, the marine mammal stranding coordinator at Allied Whale, authorized them to assist the young porpoise.
“I knew I had MERI close by and local people familiar with the area,” Seton said in a press release.
Staff from MERI and the yacht club worked together and cut a small hole in the dock. The original plan, Danielson said, was to push the porpoise down so that it could swim out from under the dock.
“We pushed it down, but it couldn’t find its way out,” he said. “It came back to the same hole.”
They could hear the porpoise breathing and making chirping sounds during the process.
They decided to bring the porpoise up onto the dock. The porpoise was about 30 inches long, larger than the original hole in the dock, so they cut out several more sections of board to widen the hole. Club sailing instructor Walker Kalan and yacht club member Ed Lewis secured a beach towel under the porpoise and lifted it slowly onto the dock. There were no signs of injury, and they quickly released the porpoise into the harbor and it swam off.
“We could see it surfacing and it was moving at a good speed; so that was a pretty good sign,” Danielson said. “It felt satisfying to help it out.”
Neither the adult porpoise, which they presumed was the mother, nor the baby, have been seen again. Danielson said they hoped that the two had been reunited.
Seton said the crews did exactly the right thing. Although Allied Whale encourages participation of the general public, it is important to seek authorization first. Permission to assist a marine mammal is not always given and it always depends on the circumstances.
Reports of stranded marine mammals should be made to Allied Whale at 288-5644 or, after hours, at 266-1326, or to the Maine Marine Animal Reporting Hotline at 800-532-9551.