Disclaimer: This is our inconvenient advice on what to do when you find a stranded whale or a dolphin. This advice is our opinion and it differs drastically from the official advice given to the public by the experts and media. This advice is based on successful rescue cases and examples of rescues (see below).
When you see a live stranded whale or dolphin the rule # 1 is: USE YOUR COMMON SENSE. DO NOT PUT YOURSELF IN DANGER, BUT DO NOT BE A SISSY TOO.
What to do when you find a whale, a dolphin or a mass stranded pod (up to false killer whale and pilot whale size)
1. If you see a stranded whale or dolphin first make sure you do not see large wounds, bleeding from eyes or blowhole. These are serious injuries and will need medical attention. Superficial scratches and cuts from being on the beach ARE NOT serious injuries.
2. Time means life and death for a stranded animal. Small dolphins and whales are easily stressed, so you have to be very quiet around them, i.e. kogias, spinner dolphin, common dolphins, striped dolphins, etc. Larger whales are more robust.
3. If you see no signs of serious external injuries (like chunks literally missing) and any serious impairments (use your common sense here, serious impairment means trashing uncontrollable, foaming out of the blowhole, etc), then you need to attempt the rescue asap.
4. If you can you need to try and release animal away from the stranding site and in much deeper waters. The key is to get away from the initial stranding site as far as you can.
5. Be prepared that an animal can immediately restrand. Stranded whale and dolphins are almost always disoriented/unbalanced and will need time to adjust and get their bearings. There could be some threatening stimuli they still hear in water, thus getting away from stranding site is important. They can restrand 3+ times, do not give up and attempt to rescue anyway. The further away you are from the stranding site the less restranding attempts will be made.
6. You might need to hold and support a dolphin or a whale in water for some time to help them get their bearings back. Once again use your common sense, stay away from the tail or use props to reduce any risk of injury to you.
7. Stranded whales and dolphin need to be in water, asap. Help them, support them, but do not get them out of water.
8. Protect blowhole, they usually have precise control over it, but stress and being weak could mean that water can get in. Water in a blowhole will lead to pneumonia and in severe cases will drown them.
9. Do not drag by the tail, UNLESS it is a very small spinner dolphin and the distance is very short. In large whales, like pilots the tail can get detached, small dolphins can tolerate it for a short period of time. Again, use your common sense.
10. The bottom line is get a stranded animal back to water asap, stay away from the tail, support them if you can, use props.
Note #1: If none of this works and a dolphin or a whale keeps restranding for 5+ times, then it is time to call authorities.
Note #2. If you see a dolphin or a whale behaving very strangely, like swimming in very short and tight circles, swimming on a side, etc this could be serious, as sometimes parasites infest their brains and this is truly a lost case. But these severe cases are extremely rare.
If you see a large stranded whale (s):
1. Obviously you cannot rescue it alone. Need to call for help. However in some cases, help could be your fellow citizens and not necessarily the officials and NGOs
2. Large whales are robust and can last quite some time on the beach.
3. Contrarily to what has been said, the major danger is overheating (in warm weather) and not the weight crushing organs. Sperm whales in Tasmania survived 92 hours laying on the beach.
4. To prevent overheating pour water on whale (remember about blowhole) and maybe try to erect some sort of shade cover.
5. People can dig around the whale making a trench that will fill with water.
6. Rescue itself is logistically challenging and will depend on the size of an animal and topography of the site.
7. Some smaller whales and juvenile whales can be rescued by people, larger whales will need boats and nets as well as some help with digging trench. Rescue should be done at the high tide, but everything has to be ready once the tide starts coming. Once a whale is in water, it can attempt to restrand just like in case with smaller dolphins and whales, for that reason the access to beach has to be blocked somehow and the whale has to be escorted to deeper waters.
8. Use unconventional approach: talk to a whale out loud, sing to it (it worked at least in one case, perhaps the singing was so bad that whale decided to go away
9. Below are videos and other material that can be used as a manual for the rescue.
2. Example of large stranded whale that repeatedly trashing his tail, you do not want to approach this whale, ok? In this case rescue has to be done remotely only, by placing a net over whale and dragging it with the boats.
3. Small common dolphin rescued in MA, USA
4. Public rescues mass stranded false killer whales in Phuket, Thailand:
5. Public in Vietnam rescues a stranded kogia (article with video) (link)
6. Large baleen whale stranded in Vietnam and rescued by local fishermen (hundreds of them) link
7. A pod of common dolphins rescued in Brazil:
8. Mexico’s Navy Rescues large humpback whale:
9. Large stranded sperm whales rescued in Tasmania (note: if you want a copy of the article describing in detail methodology of how these giant whales ware saved, please email us at strandednomore at gmail dot com):
10. Mass stranded pilot whales rescued in Cape Verde (link to article and video).
11. Harbor porpoise rescued in Black Sea:
Remember: some stress, inconvenience, scratches and other minor issues is the price stranded whales and dolphins are willing to pay to stay alive.
Final Note: We are prepared that this advice has a potential to cause a shitstorm, especially from rescues, NGOs and officials from “developed” world. But still we stand by it because it is our opinion and it is based on documented cases where it worked. These are just some examples, we have even more cases where the public was much more effective in rescuing stranded whales and dolphins than all rescues, NGOs and authorities combined.