Subject: Strandings

Kim Marshall (
Thu, 13 May 1999 08:32:05 -0400 (EDT)


No one really knows why whales strand but they have been doing it for
hundreds of years that we know of.  With networks managed by the National
Marine Fisheries Service and NOAA we are learning more and more every day.
Most mass strandings of whales occur with toothed whales that live in pods
with social hierachies. It is beleived that if the leader of the group gets
sick or disoriented the others simply follow the leader onto the shore.
Others believe that if there is a illness throughout the group they will
mass strand and die so as not to transfer disease.

Another theory is that their sonar used for navigation may get distorted by
particulates in the water near areas with a lot of upwelling ie: Cape Cod,
causing them to misinterpret information and basically they end up crashing
on land.

The last, but not least is the theory of the earth's magnetic pull and the
possible affect it may have in certain geographic areas on their ability to

I suggest contacting the NMFS/NOAA office in your area. Also, there is a
book called Marine Mammals Ashore by Joseph Geraci and Valerie Lounsbury
that discusses what to do with stranded animals in great detail. You can
order this book from the Sea Grant Program, Texas A&M University, PO Box
1675, Galveston, TX 77553-1675.

I would also recommend contacting the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, at
this web address:

Pollution certainly affects whales in harmful ways.  Please check out our
website for more information on pollutants and whales
under the Voyage of the Odyssey section.

Thank you and good luck! Kim

>I'm wondering about the latest information on whale strandings.  Were
>there strandings before we started dumping hazardous wastes into the
>ocean?  Is this documented from early times around the world or is it
>new?  If it is due to our pollution - is it the chemicals that affect
>their brain, the metals that affect biomagnetic tracking for migration
>or parasites from infection?  We are studying the effects of pollution
>in labs and my group needs to know some ways pollution affects sea
>mammals.  I thought this might be one way, but want to be sure.  Thank
>you again for all your help!

Kim Marshall-Tilas
Whale Conservation Institute/Ocean Alliance
191 Weston Road
Lincoln, MA  01773
(781) 259-0423
fax: 259-0288