The harbour porpoise and all other cetaceans are totally protected in Danish waters, but not in the waters around Greenland and the Faroe Islands. This means that it is forbidden to catch, transport and purchase cetaceans. As a university laboratory we have received the permission for a yearly maximal “take” of four animals. Since the Baltic Sea population of harbour porpoises has disappeared it is no longer possible now to organize catching of the animals while they are migrating in schools through the Danish waters to the North Sea during the winter months. We have given up attempts to catch the animals ourselves after an unsuccessful catching project resulting in only three animals.
Therefore our laboratory animals are those which have caught themselves in different kinds of nets set for fish. The types of nets involved are described and attempts are made to explain why the animals are caught in them. Most of the animals we get from these nets are sick ones. and typical autopsy findings are: heavy attack from parasites in lungs, pneumonia, parasites in liver, stomach, intestines and middle-ear cavities, oesophagal abrasions and skin lesions. Before we can use the animals for our bio-acoustic and behavioural studies we try to cure them and therefore our laboratory also acts as a hospital for harbour porpoises.