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Whale Strandings And Rescue

Every year, thousands of whales,dolphins and porpoises get into trouble and become stranded or beached. Some die at sea and then wash up onshore, others come ashore (strand) alive,and some become trapped in shallow waters. 

Pilot whale stranding

If a whale or dolphin is alive when they strand, they are usually helpless and in danger; they need human help to get back to sea. Some come ashore alone because they are unwell or injured. Others strand in big groups (mass strandings). In the case of species that live in groups with strong social or ‘family’ bonds, a lead animal in trouble may put the whole group into danger.  Pilot whales are a good example. If a lead whale in the group makes a navigational mistake, the others will follow and they may all strand together. Likewise, if one individual in the group is ill and enters shallow water, others may come into to help, but end up in trouble themselves. With human help it is possible to rescue healthy whales such as these and help them back out to sea.

Errors in navigation are likely to be a cause for some mass standings at least, but noise from military exercises (using loud explosions or powerful sonar), or from exploration surveys at sea for oil and gas could also cause whales and dolphins to strand on the shoreline. Remember, they live in a world of sound – using it to communicate, find food, and navigate. High levels of noise disrupt this world and threaten these creatures.  If loud man-made sounds damage the hearing of a whale or dolphin, it is unlikely they can survive andmay strand.

WDC is here to help whales and dolphins and we continue to support rescue efforts across the globe, and to investigate and campaign against the human causes behind some of these strandings.