SWFSC Stranding Investigations
Investigating why marine mammals strand
SWFSC responds to dead marine mammal strandings along the approximately 80 miles (125km) of coastline in San Diego, whereas Sea World responds to live marine mammal strandings in the area. Both organizations are members of the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network which is part of the broader national Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program
In San Diego County, marine mammal strandings are typically of single animals. Twenty-one different cetacean species have stranded along our beaches, although the most common to strand are long-beaked common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, short-beaked common dolphins, and gray whales. The greatest number of strandings occur from March through June. Necropsies reveal the most common cause of death in stranded San Diego County cetaceans to be trauma, infectious disease, and domoic acid toxicosis. Several modalities are used to investigate strandings, which include radiology (computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging), histopathology, microbiology, and occasionally gas analysis.