Cetacean stranding events

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A beached Cuvier's beaked whale in Newfoundland
A beached Cuvier's beaked whale in Newfoundland

Cetacean stranding, also known as beaching, is a phenomenon in which whales and dolphins strand themselves on land, usually on a beach. Beached whales and dolphins often die due to dehydration, collapsing under their own weight, or drowning when high tide covers the blowhole.

2023 Strandings

Ruakākā Beach, New Zealand - 13 August

Six dolphins were discovered dead on Ruakākā Beach near the refinery. The dolphins, measuring six to eight feet, were already deceased. The Department of Conservation was informed and couldn't confirm the dolphin breed or duration of stranding.[1]

Cheynes Beach, Western Australia - 25 and 26 July

The 2023 Cheynes Beach whale stranding was a mass stranding of 96 pilot whales that occurred on Cheynes Beach, Western Australia, on 25 and 26 July 2023. It was one of the largest whale strandings in Australian history and resulted in the death of all the stranded whales. On 25 July 2023, the Parks and Wildlife Service of Western Australia (PWS) received reports of pilot whales close to the shoreline of Cheynes Beach. PWS staff arrived at the scene and found 51 whales already dead on the beach and another 45 still alive in shallow water. They estimated that the whales were between four and six meters long and weighed up to three tonnes each. On 26 July 2023, PWS staff made the difficult decision to euthanize the remaining whales to end their suffering. They consulted with veterinarians and experts from Murdoch University and used lethal injections to administer a drug called pentobarbital, which causes respiratory arrest and cardiac failure.[2]

Isle of Lewis, United Kingdom - July 16

On July 16, 2023, a mass stranding of pilot whales occurred on the Isle of Lewis, which was reported to the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) by the Police. Initially, there were around 55 whales, including both adults and calves, but later, only 15 were found to be alive. Marine Mammal Medics provided first aid to the surviving whales, and additional medics and rescue equipment were brought in from surrounding areas.

It was suspected that the pod stranded because one female whale experienced a vaginal prolapse while giving birth. Pilot whales have strong social bonds, and often, when one whale is in distress and strands, others follow suit. Efforts were made to refloat two of the more active whales during the outgoing tide, but one of them restranded and subsequently died.

Eventually, it was deemed unsafe to refloat the remaining 12 whales due to the shallow beach and rough sea conditions, and considering the prolonged time they had been out of the water, the decision was made to euthanize them on welfare grounds.[3]

See also

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