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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Reporting stranded dolphins, whales and porpoises

If you discover a dolphin, whale or porpoise stranded on a beach or in shallow waters, find out who to contact. Also, find out what precautions to take when going near the animal if it is still alive.

Steps to take on finding a live stranded dolphin, whale or porpoise

Each year, about 500 whales, dolphins or porpoises (otherwise known as 'cetaceans') are reported stranded in the UK. Most are dead when they are found. Occasionally, however, some are found alive.

If you find a stranded dolphin, whale or porpoise that’s still alive you should follow these steps:

  • contact the rescue organisation
  • notify the local coastguard office
  • give information about the animal’s location and condition

How to tell if the animal is alive

You can usually tell if the animal is alive because it will be breathing through its ‘blowhole’. A blowhole is the animal’s breathing hole on top of its head. However, some species of whales can hold their breath for up to an hour. If you aren’t sure if the animal is still alive, tell whoever you call to request a rescue team.

1: Contact the rescue organisation

When you find a live stranded dolphin, whale or porpoise, the most important thing is to phone for help from a specially trained rescue team. You should do this as quickly as possible. The team will examine the animal and decide whether it can be returned to the sea.

Who to phone in England or Wales

If you are at the coast in England or Wales, then phone either:

  • British Divers Marine Life Rescue on 01825 765 546
  • the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) on 0300 1234 999

Who to phone in Scotland

If you are at the coast in Scotland, then phone either:

  • British Divers Marine Life Rescue on 01825 765 546
  • the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) on 03000 999 999

Precautions to take near stranded dolphins, whales and porpoises

You should take care since dolphins, whales and porpoises can pass on diseases to people or cause injury, so:

  • avoid the whale or dolphin’s breath so that you don’t come into contact with any infections that may be harmful to your health
  • avoid the animal’s teeth and its tail, which can cause serious injuries if the animal moves suddenly because it’s distressed
  • keep children and pets away from the stranded whale or dolphin

2: Notify your local coastguard office

You can contact the coastguard by calling the 24-hour Maritime and Coastguard Agency information line on 0870 600 6505.

3: Give information about the animal’s location and condition

Try and give the rescue team as much information as possible about the animal’s location and condition.

If possible, let them know:

  • exactly where the animal is
  • whether it is stranded on the beach, amongst rocks or in the sea
  • if it’s in the shade or direct sunlight
  • a description of the animal which may help the rescue team to decide what the species is
  • how many times a minute its blowhole is opening
  • what the weather and sea conditions are like where the animal is stranded
  • if any attempts have already been made to push the stranded animal back into the sea
  • your mobile number if you have one so that you can be contacted by the rescue team

If the animal is dead

The whale or dolphin may be dead if it isn’t breathing through its blowhole – the animal may also smell badly. If this is the case, you should contact the following organisations and give details of the location of the dead animal. If you are on the coast in:

  • England, phone the Natural History Museum on 020 7942 5155
  • Wales, phone Marine Environmental Monitoring on 01348 875 000
  • Scotland, phone the Scottish Agricultural College, Inverness, on 01463 243 030 (07979 245 893 out of office hours)

You should also contact the coastguard. You can do this by calling the 24-hour Maritime and Coastguard Agency information line on 0870 600 6505. The coastguard will pass on information about the stranding to the local authority and the Receiver of Wreck, if necessary.

Train to become a mammal medic

If you would like to train to help rescue stranded animals like whales and dolphins, follow the link below to enrol on a training course.

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