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Whale strandings increase in the UK

09 March 2005

Whale, dolphin and porpoise strandings in the UK have more than doubled in the last 10 years.

Whale stranding report Out of the Blue

Statistics from a new report, Out of the Blue, reveal the dramatic increase in the number of strandings, particularly in the last five years, and highlights the top ten sites, or hotspots, where strandings consistently occur.

How members of the public can help

Published by the Natural History Museum, Out of the Blue also calls on members of the public to help monitor key coastal areas by reporting sightings to the UK Whale & Dolphin Stranding Scheme at the Natural History Museum.

 ‘The help of individuals in reporting strandings, both on land and at sea, is vital to our research. In identifying key areas of the UK we hope that people will be particularly vigilant in these areas and help the work of the UK Whale & Dolphin Stranding Scheme,’ commented Richard Sabin, UK Whale & Dolphin Stranding Scheme co-ordinator.

Causes of death

Whale stranding

Marine strandings occur for a number of reasons, including sickness, disorientation, natural mortality, extreme weather conditions or injury. Recently bycatch - the accidental capture of animals in fishing nets - has also been identified as one of the main causes of death.

‘Only a small percentage of the total number of dead dolphins and whales are washed up on our shores so the recent dramatic increase in strandings represents a much larger number of deaths,’ Richard Sabin says.

Hotspot areas

Cornwall has the highest number of reported strandings each year for the UK. The Outer Hebrides has the highest number for Scotland, and in Wales, Gwynedd has the most strandings.

The top ten areas that record consistently high numbers of strandings are:

  • Mount's Bay (Cornwall)
  • Whitsand Bay and Looe (Cornwall)
  • Gerran's Bay and Veryan Bay (Cornwall)
  • Thurlestone (Devon)
  • Barmouth (Gwynedd)
  • Tywyn (Gwynedd)
  • Aberdaron (Gwynedd)
  • Outer Hebrides (Scotland)
  • Firth of Forth (Scotland)
  • the coastal area of Aberdeen (Scotland)

How to report a stranding

Anyone finding a stranded dolphin, whale or porpoise should report it immediately (details below), taking great care when approaching stranded animals because of possible disease transmission.

All stranding information is collated and entered into the Natural History Museum's National Strandings database, which is then used to help increase our understanding and aid survival of UK marine mammals.

Live stranded animals should be reported to:

  • in England and Wales the RSPCA, 0870 555 5999
  • in Scotland the Scottish SPCA, 0131 339 0222

Dead stranded animals should be reported to:

  • in England, the Natural History Museum on 020 7942 5155
  • in Scotland, the Scottish Agricultural College on 01463 243 030
  • in Wales, Marine Environmental Monitoring on 01348 875 000