As warmer temperatures attract more beachgoers, it’s possible one might see a stranded dolphin caught in the surf, or stuck on the sand. While our first instinct might be to attempt to rescue the mammal, there are do’s and don’ts to follow in such situations, to help ensure the safety of all.
First and foremost, the most important thing to do when encountering a stranded dolphin is to report it as soon as possible, to ensure professional responders and scientists can take appropriate action in a timely manner. In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program coordinates emergency responses to sick, injured, distressed, or dead seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, and whales.
Why can’t I move a stranded dolphin?
Much like a human that has been involved in an accident, the dolphin may be experiencing trauma and in need of medical care. Thus, they may not be immediately releasable, and doing so may put them in further danger.
Won’t a dolphin suffocate if they are out of the water?
Dolphins are air-breathing aquatic mammals who use their lungs to breathe. While gravity can cause discomfort or injury to the mammals, they are able to breathe on land.
“Understandably, when most people see a dolphin or a sea turtle that appears to be in trouble, the first impulse is to try to rescue it. But that is likely not be the best option for the animal or the person trying to help. These wild animals may be sick, injured, disoriented, or starving. They could have been exposed to pollution or a natural toxin, entangled in fishing gear, struck by a vessel, or infected by a disease or parasite.” ~ NOAA
What if people approach the dolphin?
Sadly, we have seen reports of people attempting to take selfies with stranded dolphins. Tragically in some instances, the mammals have died due to people’s interference. If possible, one person or a group of individuals should stay with the mammal until help arrives.
Be ready to provide crucial information
When reporting a stranded dolphin, be clear of the mammal’s exact location, and describe any visible injuries. This will help rescuers plan an appropriate response to best assist the dolphin.
Need to report a stranded dolphin?
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s comprehensive resource entitled “Marine Life in Distress: Understanding Marine Wildlife Stranding and Response”
Featured image: Wild Pacific white-sided dolphins, credit: Mutsu Bay Dolphin Research