First there were reports of single bottlenose dolphin seen frequently between Maryport Harbour and Workington since November. It had gone relatively unnoticed by the locals until about New Years when it took to following boats in and out of Maryport Harbour over the holiday period and with the fine weather lots of people turned up to catch a glimpse, after coverage in the local press and regional TV news.
However, the dolphin became so accustomed to swimming in the harbour that on the 5th January it entered the Maryport yacht marina (a tidal harbour with a lock gate) on high tide and the marina operators were unable to persuade it to leave when shutting the gates. The dolphin (nicknamed “Marra”) continued to be confined in the Maryport marina despite the efforts of numerous specialists and the local public to entice him out of there.
On Saturday 21st there was a large scale rescue attempt involving British Divers Marine Rescue Unit, British Sub Aqua Club, Cetacean experts from Plymouth, the WDCS and a couple of other organisations including the local inshore lifeboat, after increasing concerns over the wellbeing of the animal. Pingers and recordings of several different dolphin vocalizations were played under water while boats attempted to coax the dolphin out of the marina and a large net was hung over the exit, ready to drop into the water to prevent the dolphin returning should he choose to follow one of the boats out of the marina, but the dolphin decided he was staying put.
On the 31st, after a second rescue attempt, Marra was finally caught and taken out to sea. It was starting to show some signs of cuts and abrasions and the marina was beginning to freeze, so the BDMLR and two inshore rescue teams – a huge crane, two fire engines, coast guard and the police joined forces to capture and lift the dolphin out of the marina. Members of Silloth inshore RNLI reported that three other dolphins were seen just seven miles north of Maryport. We hope that these were part of Marra’s own group and that he is now happily rejoined his family!