Stranded Marine Mammals and Tag Recoveries

Occasionally marine mammals come ashore because they are sick or injured.  They may also wash up dead on the beach.  There are a number of organisations in the UK that deal with these two types of stranded animals.  Please call them directly as they will be able to respond.  We do not deal with sick or injured animals.

For DEAD cetaceans or seals (and turtles)

In the UK the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme was set up to deal with any reports of dead whales, dolphins or porpoises that wash ashore.  There are different telephone numbers for England, Wales and Scotland listed below.

England (cetaceans): Natural History Museum 0207 9425155
England (seals & turtles): Zoological Society of London 0207 4496672
Wales (all species): Marine Environmental Monitoring 01348 875000
Scotland (all species): Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS)
01463 243030
07979 245893 (out of hours)

More information on reporting stranded marine animals in Scotland can be found at the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme website.

For LIVE cetaceans or seals

England & Wales: RSPCA 0300 1234999
British Divers Marine Life Rescue 01825 765546
Scotland: SSPCA 0131 3390111

These organisations will respond to sick and injured animals and have facilities to rescue and rehabilitate seals.  Do not approach the animal too closely as this will cause further distress and keep dogs away.

Recovered Tags

Flipper tags

Flipper tags

Flipper tags to mark seals for future identification.  They are embossed with the words “Inform London Zoo” and London Zoo passes on any reports of tags that are found on the beach to SMRU and we then respond to the finder.  The data are important for understanding more about the movements and survival of seals in the UK and European waters.

Telemetry tag

Telemetry tag

Telemetry tags are also used to track the movements and behaviour of seals. These are glued to the fur of seals and they fall off during the annual moult.  These tags are expensive to produce and a reward is paid for their recovery and return to us.  More information about why we have developed telemetry tags for marine mammals can be found here.


If you find either of these tags please record:

  • The date
  • The location (including latitude and longitude if possible)
  • Any identifying numbers on the tag
  • Whether it was attached to a seal and, if so, the seal’s condition
  • Your address, phone number and email address

Once you have as much of the above information as possible, please contact Dr Debbie Russell (, 01334 463446).  Please do not attempt to disassemble any telemetry tag – the battery may still contain considerable energy and may be dangerous.