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When marine mammals end up live or dead on beaches or in shallow water, we call it “stranding.” They may be sick from disease or pollutants, or they may be disoriented. Some recover, while many others die.

For centuries, humans have tried to figure out why these strandings occur. In the case of a single animal, it is often due to sickness or old age. Mass strandings, which typically involve “social” species, like dolphins and pilot whales, are more puzzling.

A federal program funds the studies necessary to determine the cause of strandings. With Congress currently seeking ways to cut budgets, money for stranding response is on the line.

Stranding response not only saves the lives of dolphins and whales; it can help safeguard human health. A few years ago, the stranding program discovered that sea lions were dying due to a toxic organism in the food they were eating—food that humans eat as well.

Marine mammals can be an early warning of problems in the ocean ecosystem on which both they and we depend. You can help by letting your elected officials know that you support funding this work.

If you find an animal stranded on a beach, call the police immediately.



What Causes Strandings?

Scientists don't have all the answers yet, but family bonds, ocean geography, underwater acoustic testing, and toxins in their food supply may help explain why marine mammals strand themselves.

Learn More

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