There are reports of cetaceans stranding since records began and it is a potential issue for every country with a coastline. Stranding occurs for two reasons – natural factors including age and disease, and human-related factors including bycatch, vessel collisions and environmental degradation. Natural and human factors can also interact to cause strandings. Animals may strand alive on the beach or die at sea and be carried on to land by the currents. 

Many countries have regional or national strandings teams which study the causes of the death and thus monitor the health of marine mammals. The aspiration of these teams is to return a healthy animal to the sea or to understand why an animal has washed in dead as well as monitor and record regional or national strandings Detailed investigations including necropsies are conducted to learn more about the animal and why it may have stranded.  Standardised, global data is vital to understanding the causes of cetacean stranding and addressing those causes which are man-made.   

Stranding response teams are trained on how to deal with live, stranded animals and the investigation of dead stranded animals. Successful re-floating of some smaller cetaceans can be possible when conducted by trained responders in the right conditions. Even when the terrain and sea conditions seem suitable for re-floating, an animal may have unseen internal injuries that would result in a prolonged, possibly painful death at sea. Even for dolphins and porpoises however, a stranding is often terminal. Out of the water, the inability to regulate body temperature, and unnatural weight and pressure on an animal’s organs can cause severe internal injury or death. The prognosis for larger whales is therefore particularly poor. 

USA Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program

The MMPA was amended in 1992 to formally establish the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP) to:

Facilitate collection and dissemination of reference data on the health of marine mammals and to assess health trends of marine mammal populations in the wild; Correlate marine mammal health with available data on physical, chemical, and biological environmental parameters; and Coordinate effective responses to unusual mortality events (UMEs).

The MMHSRP has several components including:

USA Current Government Programs Related to Cetacean Conservation

Under the ESA, NMFS enters into agreements with states that establish and maintain an "adequate and active" program for the conservation of endangered and threatened species. Once a state enters into such an agreement, NMFS provides federal funding through the Species Recovery Grants to States a competitive grant program for implementation of the state's conservation program. States use federal grant funding to support management, outreach, research, and monitoring projects with direct conservation benefits for threatened and endangered species.

NZ Reporting

The Department of Conservation (DOC), often in association with local Maori, has the statutory responsibility for managing cetacean stranding events, and maintains a comprehensive coverage of the New Zealand coastline through its area offices, field centres and local networks.

Brazil cetacean conservation

The National Stranding Network coordinated by ICMBio has been working along the Brazilian coast to evaluate cetacean stranding rates and cumulative effects of anthropogenic activities on these animals. A national database was developed to store the collected information providing the possibility to integrate data (in terms of space and time) and improve the evaluation of threats, as well as support both conservation planning and management actions.