SIGHTSEERS enjoying a boat tour got more than they bargained for when they helped to haul a dead porpoise aboard.

The carcass of the seldom-seen mammal was spotted by Stacey Belbin while she delivered her tour of the waters around Mersea harbour.

Conservationist Stacey, 31, fears the porpoise could have died due to non-natural causes and hopes to have the body sent off for an autopsy.

The carcass was spotted at around 1pm on Saturday.

Stacey, owner of Lady Grace Boat Tours, said: “We always see them in the spring and autumn and I feel like in the past few years we have seen a slight increase in the water temperature.

“Sprat and herring, which the porpoises feed on, are definitely coming in a lot earlier than they used to.

“To see a dead one is unusual, you would expect to see the odd dead seal get washed up but I have never seen dead porpoises.

“I think it was quite a young one as it was quite small.

“If it was a larger one there would have been no way on earth I would have lifted it out on my own.

“I had two ladies in the boat with me at the time and I couldn’t stop apologising. I said ‘I am very sorry, I am going to have to bring it into the boat’.

“But they were absolutely fine and willing to get hands-on.

“It had a lot of marks and scars. I don’t know whether they are abscesses or what. The Essex Wildlife Trust said normally most porpoises seen washed up die of old age.”

After hauling the porpoise aboard Stacey stashed the body in a safe place and contacted her the coastguard.

She hopes the carcass will be collected and taken to London for a post-mortem examination to establish the cause of death.

She said: “A lot of people have never seen a porpoise.

“While it isn’t a nice picture it does raise awareness and show we have got such lovely creatures close by in our waters.”

According to Essex Wildlife Trist, harbour porpoises are found all around the UK’s water.

They are usually solitary or in small feeding groups of up to 10.

They are pretty shy and will avoid boats and jetskis.

They have to feed constantly to keep their body temperature up. They feed mainly on fish.