Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises)

Whales, dolphins and porpoises are entirely aquatic although they must come to the surface to breathe air through their lungs. These animals do not strand under normal circumstances, therefore, if present on the shore they will likely require assistance especially if still alive.

All species of cetacean are fully protected by law from disturbance, capture, injury or killing.

What to do if you come across a live stranded cetacean
Common dolphin

  • Contact the DAERA Marine Wildlife Team. Alternately contact Environmental Crime.
  • If possible, stay with the animal until the rescue team arrives.
  • Do not put the animal back into the sea without advice from the DAERA Marine Wildlife Team or a vet.
  • If possible look for signs of injury to provide an accurate description of these along with size and species and location (including a grid reference if possible and description of shoreline). Any photographs you can send will be useful.
  • Maintain control and keep other people and dogs away as this may result in increased stress or injury to the animal.
  • Reduce noise and keep sudden movement to a minimum to avoid further stress to the animal.
  • Keep the animal’s skin wet to prevent it cracking and to keep it cool. Also provide shade to the animal from the sun. Using seaweed or wet sheets on its back will help. Spray or douse gently with water over the body.
  • Do not cover or allow any water to enter the blowhole (nostril), sited on top of the animal’s head.  This will cause the animal great distress or may even kill it.
  • Cetaceans can carry infections or diseases and when stressed may thrash out with their tails so avoid getting too close. Also avoid working over the blowhole and inhaling its breath.

Response to dead stranded animal

If you come across a dead marine animal (whale, dolphin, porpoise, seal, shark or marine turtle) contact the DAERA Marine Wildlife Team. Please provide information on location, species, size, condition and any photographs if possible.

Further information

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