What happens when a dolphin or sperm whale strands?

Dolphins and whale strandings are rare in Dutch waters

As this sort of stranding is thought to be fairly rare in the Netherlands, investigations into the cause of the stranding are handled on a case by case basis. In recent years there appears to have been an increase in such events for example in January 2016, six sperm whales were beached on the Dutch Island of Texel and two beaked whales were found dead in the province of Zeeland.

Investigating other species of whales
The increased media attention and public awareness of whales in Dutch waters, combined with the scientific curiosity of researchers in this field, have secured more financial support for research into other species of whales. This work, supported by the Ministry of Agriculture Nature and Food is largely carried out by volunteers.

Whale Stranding Protocol 
After the tragic plight of the humpback whale Johannes, which stranded on the sandbank off the coast of Texel in 2012, the Ministry for Agriculture Nature and Food commissioned a protocol to be followed when living whales and dolphins become stranded on the Dutch coastline. In the sad event that these animals die, it is a valuable opportunity for pathologists to sample and study fresh tissue from these exceptional sea creatures. Cetaceans measuring more than 5m in length cannot be transported due to their weight so whilst dolphin necropsy can be carried out at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, whale carcasses are dissected in the field.

Sampling tissues from a sperm whale is more tiring than necropsying a porpoise…