Marine Sightings & Strandings

Our seas are among the best in Europe for spotting whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals. Seeing one is a true privilege, and reporting a sighting (or stranding) can make a huge difference to their conservation.

Need help identifying what you have seen?

Download our fab Green Marine Wildlife Guide, produced in conjunction with the RYA Green Blue.

You can get the digital edition of the Green Marine Wildlife Guide via the free ‘RYA Books’ app from iTunes. Find the guide under ‘Catalogues & Brochures’.

Report a sighting

If you are lucky enough to spot one of these animals, reporting it is really important as it can help to identify valuable areas that these species are using.

A number of groups collect marine sightings throughout the UK and are always interested to know what you have seen, please follow the links below to report your sighting:

Whales, dolphins and porpoises

Basking Sharks, Turtles, Jellyfish and Alien Species

If in Cornwall and the South West, please report to The Cornwall Seal Group
Elsewhere, please report to your local Wildlife Trust

What to do if you find a stranded animal

If you find a stranded marine animal, please contact the relevant organisation, noting the location, the state of the tide and any injuries you can see:


England, Scotland & Wales (all species) British Divers Marine Life Rescue 01825 765546 (office hours) or 07787 433412 (out of hours)
Northern Ireland (cetacean or shark) DAERA 028 70823600
Northern Ireland (sick/injured seals) Exploris Aquarium 028 427 28062, if no answer, call the NI Water Pollution Hotline on 0800 807 060
Isle of Man (all species)  MSPCA 01624 851672

Live Seals
Are you sure the animal is in distress? Healthy adult seals regularly haul out of the water to rest and seal pups are often left alone by Mum for short periods of time. The best thing to do is keep watch from a distance.

If the animal is obviously ill, malnourished or appears to be an abandoned pup, then contact your local strandings team as above for advice and assistance. Once you have called for help, keep a watch from a safe distance and try to keep other people and dogs away. Don't get too close - seals can give a nasty bite!

Live Porpoises, Dolphins, Whales and Sharks
Call for help immediately (as above), your local strandings contact will advise you on what to do next. The main things to remember are to keep dogs and crowds away as best you can and try to limit the stress to the animal by keeping noise and sudden movements to a minimum. NEVER drag the animal or try to return it to sea. Stay away from the tail - it is very powerful.

Live Turtles
Call for help immediately (as above). Live turtle strandings are more likely in winter months, when juvenile turtles are swept into our waters by ocean storms. Sea turtles normally live in tropical waters and don't cope well with cold water (anything below 10°C) and their body will stop working properly. This leaves them unable to swim and they end up washing ashore - often badly injured and requiring immediate medical attention. NEVER try to return the turtle to sea and stay away from their front flippers - they are very powerful.

NEVER try and return animals to the sea - they have stranded for a reason and require urgent professional medical attention.

Specific details on dealing with live strandings can be found on the BDMLR website here. Please do not try to deal with a stranded animal alone - always call for help.



England, Scotland & Wales (all species) Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme 0800 652 0333
Scotland (all species) Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme  07979 245893
Northern Ireland (cetacean or shark) DAERA 028 70823600
Northern Ireland (seal or otter) DAERA
Isle of Man (all species)  Manx Wildlife Trust (Marine Officer)  07624 450879 or 01624 844432                                                          
Cornwall (all species) Cornwall Wildlife Trust Marine Strandings Network 0345 201 2626


Why should I report a dead stranding?

If you find a dead stranded animal, please do report your find. Information collected from dead stranded animals is vital to our understanding of marine life and in turn allows us to better protect our marine wildlife. From dead strandings we can learn about: diet, health and disease, the effects of pollution and bycatch, distribution and any specific threats.

Dead marine animals can carry disease or infection. Avoid touching the animal and always ensure to wash your hands if any contact is made.


Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Marine Strandings Network

Did you know that Cornwall Wildlife Trust is the licenced recorder for all marine strandings in Cornwall? A team of over 100 fantastic volunteers record all reported strandings on the Cornish coastline - from whales, dolphins and porpoises to basking sharks, turtles, zulu fish and buoy barnacles! The work of this brilliant team and the Strandings Coordinator has led to over 5500 records to date - all helping Cornwall Wildlife Trust better understand and protect its amazing marine wildlife. Learn more about the network here.


A helpful guide for England & Wales

If you live in England or Wales, check out this helpful poster explaining what to do in the event of a seal, porpoise or dolphin stranding. This poster was created by Jordan Havell, leader of Jordan's Stranded Mammals Campaign. After finding a stranded porpoise on his local beach and not knowing what to do, Jordan started his campain to raise awareness of strandings. This poster can be downloaded below - please share!

Strandings Poster




FilenameFile size
Jordan's Stranded Mammals Campaign Poster - Free to use and share2.2 MB