A young porpoise returned happily to the sea yesterday after being stranded on a West Cumbrian beach.

Maryport Coastguards were the first on the scene after being called out to the beach near the Maryport Golf Club yesterday morning.

A Coastguard spokesman said the young harbour porpoise's life was saved by the quick actions of a member of the public who tried to return the animal to the water but, when he failed, immediately rang the Coastguard service.

Within 20 minutes a Marine Mammal Medica from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) was on the scene to help and advise the Coastguard team.

The animal was examined and was found to be in good condition with just a few superficial injuries caused by the stranding, so a decision was quickly made to return it to the water as soon as possible.

The Coastguard team entered the water with the porpoise and once in deeper water the animal responded straight away and swam strongly out to sea.

The harbour porpoise is a species common to the area and may have been caught out by the bad weather and stormy seas.

A Coastguard spokesman said he was delighted this story had a happy ending: "We have quite a few callouts of this nature but more often than not it is too late and the animal is dead. It is thanks to the member of the public who called in so quickly that this porpoise was saved.

"A couple of our guys got into their dry suits and waded out. The porpoise swam around them a bit and then took off. It was a great outcome!"

A BDMLR spokeswoman said the area was checked at midday and there was no sign of the animal re-stranding.

She said the rescue team had been kept busy all around the coast after the recent storms.

She thanked the team involved, the member of the public who called it in and the Maryport Coastguard for their efforts.

"BDMLR would like to take the opportunity to make people aware that anyone finding a live stranded porpoise, dolphin or whale (collectively known as cetaceans) in the UK should call our hotline immediately for assistance. You can read more advice on how to help seals and cetaceans when you find them on our website http://www.bdmlr.org.uk/index.php?page=stranded-animals"