Stranding vs. Sighting

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation (RFMRP) responds to seals, sea turtles, whales, dolphins and porpoises in New York State. Many reports of sighted or stranded marine life come through our 24-hour hotline number at 631.369.9829. The public is encouraged to contact us with information including location, photos, and as many details as possible. It is important to remember that all of these animals are federally protected, and you must maintain a distance of at least 50 (150 feet) away at all times. Interfering falls under harassment, and may cause undue stress to these animals, as well as jeopardize your safety.

What Is A Stranded Animal?

A stranded animal refers to any creature that comes ashore in a helpless position, whether it is alive or deceased. Animals that are sick, injured, or lost may become stranded on beaches or in waterways in which they are unable to free themselves. Stranding is commonly associated with animals that are still alive, while beaching refers to animals that are already deceased. However, stranding does encompass both alive and deceased animals.

To report a stranding, please call the 24-hour hotline immediately at 631.369.9829. Please provide the location, details, and your contact information so that our trained biologists and staff may assist.

To report a sighting, click here. Photos and video are greatly appreciated.

History of Stranding

While the history of strandings date back to pre-historic times, much of what we know today is thanks to the continued research of these animals through stranding programs. Over a century ago, noted cetologist and one of the first curators of National Museum of National History (Smithsonian Institute) Frederick True recognized the scientific importance of stranded animals, and organized a marine mammal stranding program along the East Coast. Through marine mammalogists, particularly since 1972 under the guidance of Curator of Mammals James Mead, the Smithsonian Institute is regarded for their collection of marine mammal skulls and skeletons, as well it’s archive of photographs, measurements, internal and external specimen samples, and more. The existence of some marine mammal species is only known through strandings.

Stranding data provides valuable information into the marine environment and it’s inhabitants. Scientists have been able to learn and understand more about different species, including growth rates, age at maturity, reproductive seasons, longevity, migration patterns, illnesses and death, environmental changes and disturbances, and much more.

For stranding data from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, click on the graphs below.