Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture

Marine Mammal Stranding


Why marine mammals strand is not completely understood by scientists. Stranding behaviors appear to vary from species to species and by location and involves many of the following factors:

- complex oceanographic and topographic features
- extreme low tides
- pollution
- weather conditions
- predators
- natural toxins
- geomagnetic disturbances and errors in navigation
- following prey inshore
- disease
- disturbance of echolocation in shallow water
- social cohesion
- human-related injuries

Seals and sea lions often spend several hours hauled out on beaches, rocks or islands. Notify the stranding network if you observe a:

- lone seal pup
- wounded seal or sea lion
- seal or sea lion hauled out in an unusual place (i.e. busy beach or boat ramp)

Seal pups often rest on shore. Do not disturb them - it's the law!
Whales, dolphins and porpoises should always be in the water. If you observe a live whale, dolphin or porpoise on the beach call the stranding network immediately! If the animal is dead, please notify the network as soon as possible.



- Move, touch or disturb the animal...Many species can bite and carry diseases, some of which are communicable to humans!
- Try to feed the animal
- Pour water on a seal or sea lion&endash;they are often hauled out to dry off and warm up!


- Stay a safe distance away - for your sake
- Keep other people and dogs away
- Try to observe the following and report:

1. is the animal alive or dead?
2. about how big is it in relation to you? What other general features do you observe (color, shape, does it have fur, ears, fins etc.)
3. do you see any wounds or distinguishing marks?
4. does the animal have any visible tags ( note: seals are tagged on the hind flipper; sea lions are tagged on the fore-flipper)? What color is the tag and can you safely read the number on the tag?
5. what is the exact location of the animal ? (look around for landmarks if possible - it is often difficult to locate a stranded marine mammal without detailed directions)

If possible, take a picture of the stranded animal (this is especially important if you are in a remote area).

female elephant seal To report a stranded marine mammal notify the nearest State Park or National Park Ranger Station or call Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary 360/457-6622 .

Reporting marine mammal strandings is probably the best way you can help stranded animals. However, wildlife experts have learned that little can be done to "rescue" animals that have come ashore - the most humane action may be to let nature run its course. Your phone call, however, alerts wildlife professionals to a valuable opportunity to study marine mammals and protect both the animal and unknowing bystanders from possible harm. A few rare species have never been seen alive, and the only information we have has come from beached individuals. All of these animals have great scientific significance.

In order to learn more about these puzzling events, and to obtain scientific data about marine mammals in general, scientists respond to reports of strandings and have organized the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

warning signs The Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network was established by the National Marine Fisheries Service under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. It is designed to respond to marine mammal stranding events along the Washington and Oregon coasts and is part of a nationwide network. The network is composed of cooperating scientific investigators and institutions, volunteer individuals and organizations, wildlife and fisheries agencies, and state and federal enforcement agencies. These participants are experienced and knowledgeable in the methods of handling beached and stranded marine mammals and volunteer to either respond directly or provide expert advice to those at the stranding on how to handle the incident. Data are collected from such events and entered into a national database that is used to establish baseline information on marine mammal communities and their health.

Contact for page content: olympiccoast@noaa.gov
Photo of peach coral
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