Why training is important

There are three primary reasons that marine animal stranding responders should be properly trained:

  1. Safety  (both that of the responder and that of the animal)
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Data collection

Although often perceived as docile, calm and friendly, marine mammals are wild animals and should be treated as such.  One would not consider trying to rescue an injured lion or elephant without proper training, experience and equipment, right? Marine mammals should be treated the same way.  There is great risk to humans and animals if improper actions are taken during a rescue operation of a live animal.  Proper training can provide an understanding of animal behavior, anatomy and physiology that can help keep the responder and the animal safe. Whales and dolphins are powerful animals, and even in an incapacitated state can be formidable to handle; a thrashing tail fluke can easily injure an unaware individual. Dead animals need equal care and handling due to the risk of disease transmission and contamination if carcasses are not disposed of properly.

While keeping responders and the public safe is always the top priority, of almost equal importance is the health and welfare of the stranded animal.  Many times the well-intentioned actions of beachgoers have resulted in the injury or death of a stranded marine animal.  Pushing a sick dolphin back out to sea is not the most humane option.  Nor is it appropriate to handle an animal too much, unintentionally causing added stress to the animal. Proper training in the response to live stranded animals can make the difference between life and death.

As noted previously, one reason to respond to strandings is to collect key data that is not readily available from animals that spend their lives at sea.  With training and experience, stranding responders can contribute data to promote an improved global understanding of marine mammals and their habitat.

Years of experience conducting stranding response operations has led institutions worldwide to develop protocols and best practices to minimize risk and maximize human and animal safety.  Knowledge of species behavior and acceptable/approved protocols can ensure that the best efforts are made to respond to a stranding event.


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.