Why respond to strandings?

There are scientific, socio-cultural, ecological, and animal and human welfare reasons to respond to stranded marine animals.

Marine mammal species are often difficult to study since they spend a majority of their lives at sea. Thus, collecting information from stranded animals has, and continues to provide extensive information about species occurrence patterns, natural history, behavior, health, ecology, and threats.

From a conservation and ecological perspective, marine mammals are sentinel species of the marine environment. Declining or unhealthy marine mammal populations can signal broader ecosystem deterioration, which can impact many fish species that are both marine mammal prey and also a rich source of protein for human populations worldwide. Further, disease outbreaks and transmission of animal diseases to humans (zoonosis) is a rising and significant concern, which requires us to be vigilant.  Examining and completing diagnostic tests on stranded animals can help to identify potentially zoonotic diseases and to preempt their spread.

Beyond the scientific, conservation and human and environmental health benefits of stranding response, there is the matter of animal welfare.  Although throughout history many populations have utilized marine mammals in food and commerce, today there is a strong human desire to protect these animals. As a result, many nations have adopted legislation to protect marine mammals.  Even in places where there is no formal protection, stranding response networks are developing.  Caring for live stranded animals and gathering important data can lead to better protection of the species.   Marine mammals are synonymous with tigers and lions, and as charismatic megafauna are representative of a healthy and thriving ocean. Humans and marine mammals in many societies have a long history of association and are of cultural significance. Humans have maintained these strong emotional bonds and have a vested interest in the welfare of marine mammals. People consider marine mammals to be highly intelligent with strong social dependencies and human-like characteristics. Thus, there is societal interest in rescue and response efforts.

Tagged Rehabilitated Seals. Source: The Marine Mammal Center


Woods Hole Open Access Server

This link takes you to the Marine Mammal Stranding Response repository on the Woods Hole Open Access Server (WHOAS). You will need to register on that site to download content and training materials that are housed there. This will be a one-time registration process.

Continue to the Woods Hole Open Access Server.