Strandings occur when marine mammals swim or float onto shore and become "beached" or stuck in shallow water or on land. Stranding means the animal is not able to return to the water on his own. In most stranding cases, the cause of the stranding is unknown, some identified causes have included disease, parasite infestation, harmful algal blooms, injuries from ship strikes or fishery entanglements, pollution exposure, trauma, and starvation. While most stranded animals are found dead, some strand alive. In a limited number of cases it's possible to transport them to regional rehabilitation centers for care. Successfully rehabilitated animals are returned to the wild.
The Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSP) was established in 1992 as an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Volunteer stranding networks, authorized and overseen by NOAA’s NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service), were formed in all coastal states to respond to strandings. For information on NOAA'S West Coast Stranding Network, click here.
Never touch or handle a live or dead marine mammal. Even a small seal pup can cause a severe bite - and both live and dead animals can transmit diseases to human and dogs.
Not all animals on shore are stranded. All year long, adult seals, sea lions and seal pups rest and warm up on shore. It is normal for a seal pup to be seen alone on the beach. Never pick up and move a pup. If the pup is not weaned and is separated from its mother, it will die. Weaned pups need to conserve their energy in order to survive. Keep people and pets a safe distance away (100 yards if possible) and call the proper authorities. Remember all marine mammals are protected by Federal law.
Seal Sitters MMSN responds to reports of live and dead marine mammals on beaches in West Seattle from Brace Point (south of Lincoln Park) through the Duwamish River (including Harbor Island). Please call Seal Sitters hotline: 206-905-7325 (SEAL).
For all other beaches in Washington and Oregon, please call the NOAA NW Stranding Hotline: 1-866-767-6114. MAPS OF MARINE MAMMAL STRANDING NETWORKS IN WASHINGTON AND OREGON For detailed maps with information on the stranding network in your area, please download the following NOAA Stranding Network maps: