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Marine Mammal Stranding

Strandings occur when marine mammals swim or float into shore and become ‘beached’ or stuck in shallow water. In most stranding cases, the cause of the stranding is unknown, but some identified causes include disease, parasite infestation, harmful algal blooms, injuries due to ship strikes or fishery entanglements, pollution exposure, trauma, and starvation.
 
While the majority of stranded animals are found dead, some animals strand alive and in a limited number of cases it is possible to transport these individuals to regional rehabilitation centers for care. In rare cases, successfully rehabilitated animals are returned to the wild.

What is a Stranding?

NOAA the U.S based Nation Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration's - National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) defines a stranded animal as any dead marine mammal on shore, any live dolphin or whale cast ashore or unable to return to its natural habitat, or any live seal that cannot leave shore due to injury or poor health.

 

A single stranding occurs when one dolphin, whale, porpoise, or seal comes ashore by itself dead or alive and in need of intervention.  A mass stranding is an event where two or more dolphins or whales (other than a mother/calf pair) strand at the same time in close proximity to one another.  (Seals and baleen whales do not mass strand.)  Mass strandings can sometimes involve over 100 individual animals in some cases. 

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) defines a stranded animal as any dead marine mammal on shore, any live dolphin or whale cast ashore or unable to return to its natural habitat, or any live seal that cannot leave shore due to injury or poor health.

 

A single stranding occurs when one dolphin, whale, porpoise, or seal comes ashore by itself dead or alive and in need of intervention.  A mass stranding is an event where two or more dolphins or whales (other than a mother/calf pair) strand at the same time in close proximity to one another.  (Seals and baleen whales do not mass strand.)  Mass strandings sometimes involve over 100 individual animals. 

 

What is an "unusual mortality event"?

Stranding Response & Research

There are stranding research programs all over the world, which respond to live stranding or mass stranding events as they happen.
 
Most research is focused on post-mortem examinations (necropsies) of dead stranded cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) or during rehabilitation at specialised facilities to investigation natural and anthropogenic factors such as effects of fisheries interactions and chemical and acoustic pollution. 

 

Why is Stranding research important? 

  • Managing Marine Mammal Disease outbreaks

  • The cause of this phenomenon is complex and multifactorial

  • ‘Environmental distress syndrome’ Whereby ecologic and climatic changes, likely associated with human activities, are encouraging the selection of new and opportunistic pathogens.

  • Zoonotic implications

  • Essential to identify diseases occurring in marine mammals and the impact that these diseases have on individuals, populations, and the ecosystem as a whole.

What to do if you find a live stranded marine mammal?

(United Kingdom-BDMLR) Please note the place, the state of the tide and any injuries you can see without getting close and call 01825 765546 during office hours. After 5pm on working days, or at weekends or Bank Holidays, please call our out of hours number on 07787 433412 (NB: this number does not receive texts or pictures). We will then advise you on what to do and will get a trained medic out as soon as possible.