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If You See A 
Cetacean In Distress


What You Need To Do

If you see a whale, dolphin or porpoise that you believe is in distress:

1. Stay back
2. Keep people and pets away
3. Call the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-SEAL (7325)

Understanding The Situation

Whales, dolphins, and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans) don't normally spend any time on land. Some species of cetaceans will spend short periods of time in shallow water (for example, the beach rubbing behaviour of British Columbia's killer whales) with no ill effects. Some species of dolphins (including killer whales) will also chase their prey right up onto the beach, and then quickly maneuver themselves back into the water.

However, cetacean bodies aren't designed for spending time ashore. They can overheat easily, as they cannot properly regulate their body temperatures out of the ocean. The weight of larger animals, unsupported by water, can compress their lungs and make breathing extremely difficult.

If you see a stranded whale, dolphin or porpoise, call an animal rescue organization immediately.


How To Help

  • Animals shouldn't be pushed back out to sea, but kept in shallow water until trained individuals have assessed their condition. If they're pushed out to sea, they may re-strand, possibly in an area where they may not be found and helped.
  • Animals should be kept wet, cool, and shaded. Wet, light-coloured sheets or towels may be placed over the body of the animal. (Be careful not to cover the blowhole on the top of the head.)
  • Keep people and pets away from the animal. A cetacean that has come ashore is probably very stressed, and other intrusive factors should be minimized
  • Call the Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue at 604-258-SEAL immediately. If you' re outside British Columbia, call your local animal rescue organization for assistance

If you observe a cetacean in distress at sea, call a marine mammal rescue organization for assistance. The animal may be ill, injured or entangled in marine debris (for example, discarded fishing nets). Disentanglement should not be attempted by those untrained in the procedure; it can be hazardous for both the animal and those attempting to assist it.

It's important to remember that cetaceans are very large and powerful animals. Do not approach too closely, especially around the head and tail flukes.


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