Finding a live stranded dolphin or whale on the shore is always an unexpected and deeply emotional experience. There is little that can prepare you for it. Largely without government funding, the rescue of dolphins and whales is generally undertaken by passionate volunteers. Hopefully a veterinarian with experience of marine species will oversee the rescue, sometimes marine mammal scientists are involved and often local communities assist.
What we learn about how best to rescue those individuals that are deemed healthy enough to be returned to the sea, we learn from each other and from experience. In 2013, British Divers Marine Life Rescue and WDC organised the European Cetacean Society Best Practice in Rescue workshop, with contributions from vets and others with extensive marine mammal rescue expertise from throughout Europe and the US, to benefit from our collective knowledge.
I have attended many, many strandings over the years. Each stranding is unique, yet I have found every one similarly shocking and emotional. How can finding a dolphin or whale out of the sea and lying on the beach in front of you be anything else? I’m sad to say that none of those stranded whales and dolphins have survived and so I have not yet had the opportunity to be involved in a rescue attempt. When that day comes, I will feel better prepared because of the experiences that those who have been there before me have shared.
If you find a stranded dolphin or whale, please contact your local rescue network so that the appropriate veterinary advice can be provided and the best care and support given.