When a marine mammal washes ashore, the forensic investigation begins. How did the animal become stranded? What can it teach us about the health of its ocean habitat? As a member of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a federal rescue and research program led by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Academy responds to strandings along our coast to better understand why the animals washed ashore—and help reduce the frequency of such events in the future.
From Año Nuevo in the south to mid-Mendocino in the north, whenever a deceased marine mammal is reported, responders from the Academy’s Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy spring into action. They locate the specimen, take measurements, and depending on the condition of the animal perform an examination known as a necropsy (or animal autopsy) to collect tissue and bone samples that help determine the animal’s cause of death. After being processed, these samples are added to the Academy’s scientific collection, providing data for researchers from around the world seeking to better understand and protect our ocean’s increasingly vulnerable marine mammals.
It is illegal to approach or handle a sick or injured marine mammal or collect any parts of dead marine mammals. If you encounter a sick or injured marine mammal, call The Marine Mammal Center at 415-289-SEAL. If you encounter a dead marine mammal, call the Academy at 415-379-5381 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, view the FAQ below.