UK Whale and Dolphin Strandings

Porpoise stranded on a beach in Lincolnshire

At a glance

Report stranded whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Type of activity: Outdoors

Who can take part? Everyone

When? All year round

How long will it take? No set time

Cost: Free

Contribute to our understanding of UK marine mammals by telling us about any stranded whales, dolphins and porpoises you find.

Why we are doing the project

Whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans) are a fascinating group of mammals that lead mysterious lives below the waves.

To expose some of these mysteries, the Museum started recording cetacean strandings in 1913. We are now a partner in the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme, which has expanded to include seals, large-bodied sharks and marine turtles that strand along the UK coastline.

We rely on the public to report any incidents of these stranded animals to us so we can unravel the events leading up to the moment of death. We try to respond quickly in the hope of collecting the stranded animal for post-mortem examination.

How to take part

Turn your daily dog walk or Sunday stroll along the UK coast into a dedicated search for strandings.

If you spot a stranded cetacean on the shoreline or in the surf please do the following:

1. Take a photograph. This is invaluable for species identification and assessing the level of decomposition (which affects whether we do a post-mortem examination).

2. Estimate the animal's size in metres or feet.

3. Note the exact location and date.

4. Send these details and your photos to or call 0800 6520 333.

We would also like reports on stranded seals, large-bodied sharks and turtles.

Results so far

We record approximately 500 strandings of marine animals every year. Post-mortem examinations reveal information about causes of death, diseases, environmental contaminant levels, reproductive patterns, diet and baseline data on UK populations.

A summary of the scientific reports and a list of peer-reviewed papers published by the programme are available on the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme website.

Cetacean strandings blog

Read our blog to learn more about the Museum's cetacean strandings work, including A beach walkers guide to identification of whales, dolphins & porpoises.

Project team

  • Brian Smith, Cetacean Strandings Support Officer

Cetacean Strandings on Facebook

Funded by:

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Government, as part of the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme.