Annie receiving her award

The pivotal role played by Skye woman Annie Davidson in establishing a network of volunteers dedicated to saving marine wildlife has been rewarded.

In June of last year Annie witnessed first-hand the heart-breaking sight of a group of pilot whales who stranded themselves on the rocky shore of Staffin.

And it was the tragic loss of some of the whales that spurred her on to do something to make sure that should the same thing ever occur in the future local help would be at hand.

Now Annie, a Youth Development Officer at High Life Highland has received a ‘Staff Award for Exceptional Contribution’ from the charity run company for all the work and effort she has put in over the last twelve months.

In partnership with Noel Hawkins, the area co-ordinator for Skye and Wester Ross of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), Annie secured funding from High Life Highland’s Learning for Life fund.  This provided five free places to 16-25 year olds and six subsidised places to other local people for a local training course which was held at Columba 1400 in Staffin last October.

The community now has access to a viable team, with experienced back-up, capable of taking immediate action if marine mammals are in need of intervention. The course has provided a new and different opportunity for volunteering and the skills developed are relevant to the local marine industry, potentially providing increased employability opportunities for participants. In total 32 people attended the training day, some new and others refreshing expired experience.

Back in 2015 when the strandings first took place volunteer rescuers from British DIvers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) in Ullapool, Nairn and Inverness responded to initial call outs. But there were only three active trained medics on Skye and time was lost waiting for additional trained personnel and equipment to arrive from elsewhere in Scotland. A total of 14 whales were saved but the incident highlighted the need for trained volunteers on the island.

High Life Highland presented the award to Annie in recognition of the work and time she put in to enabling the training course to take place and the fact that it not only benefited those attending but has the potential to save marine animals in the event of a future incident taking place.

Mr Hawkins based in Ullapool said, “Annie’s local knowledge and experience with High Life Highland made it possible for us to deliver training where it was needed and to people that not only benefit from the training but also offer us the best people to have on hand on Skye.

“By filling this large and important gap in our coastline, we are hopefully ensuring we have the best chance to respond in the event of a similar situation in future.

“I thank Annie for her contribution and hard work and High Life Highland for giving us the opportunity to maximise availability and access to our course where it was desperately needed.” 

Anyone interested in becoming involved with BDMLR can find out more at www.bdmlr.org.uk