Clearwater Marine Aquarium
249 Windward Passage
Clearwater, FL 33767
Report a Stranding:
If you find a dolphin, whale, sea turtle or river otter in distress in the Tampa Bay area, then immediately call CMA's 24-hr Emergency Stranding Hotline at (727)-441-1790 ext.1.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium reminds all patrons that the close interactions with, and feeding of, dolphins depicted on our website are legally permissible only because these animals are in human care under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Animal Welfare Act. Attempting the same behavior in the wild is illegal under the MMPA www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/laws/mmpa/ and can result in serious harm to both humans and animals. Visit www.dolphinsmart.org to learn how to responsibly view dolphins in the wild or book a dolphin excursion with a recognized Dolphin SMART participant.
Do’s and Dont's if you encounter a stranded animal:
Don’t push the animal back into the Gulf. Animals strand for a reason and it is normally the result of being sick or injured. Send someone to call CMA with this information. Even if the public has already called the police or Marine Patrol, chances are they did not have complete information.
Do be careful! Cetaceans are often quite docile, but they are wild animals, which may use their beaks (rostrum), tails and teeth as weapons to protect themselves. If possible, the animal should be approached from the side or behind, rather than near the head.
Do keep water out of the animal’s blow hole. Cetaceans breathe through the blowhole; it is imperative to keep water from going down the blowhole into the lungs. Generally they breathe every 20 - 30 seconds (about 2 - 3 breaths per minute for dolphins). The respiratory cycle consists of a quick exhale, quick inhale and a longer breath-holding period. Germs, worms and other matter may be forcefully blown out of the blowhole.
Do protect the animal's skin. Cetacean skin, designed to be wet, dries quickly and may crack. Therefore, water should be gently and quietly scooped onto exposed skin. It is prone to sunburn which will appear as darker than normal skin color and may or may not blister. Cetaceans should be kept shaded whenever possible.
Don’t use common sunscreens. They can damage and burn dolphin's skin. Only use 100% zinc oxide. In lieu of this, towels, shirts, newspaper, mud (without rock, shells, etc.) can be used to cover the back peduncle. (Do not cover the blowhole on the top of the head). Cetacean skin is very delicate and sloughs constantly; fingernails, wetsuit zippers or jewelry can easily cut it.
Do keep them cool. As with most mammals, the internal body temperature of cetaceans is near our own (~ 96 - 98 degrees F). Cetaceans alter blood flow to their flippers, dorsal fin and flukes, which act as radiators to stabilize the body temperature. Feel the dorsal fin and any other exposed skin. If it feels warm to the touch, additional water should be used to cool it off. Be sure not to cover the dorsal fin, pectoral fins, or flukes as this can cause the animal to overheat.
Do protect their eyes. Cetacean eyes produce lots of clear mucus that is usually washed away when swimming. If the dolphin is unable to swim, this mucus may be easily seen. Protect the eyes by clearing away debris, sand, shells and anything else that could cause damage.
Don’t let the animal become stressed. Stress can cause stranded dolphins to deteriorate quickly and eventually die. Hold the animal as gently as possible. Use the least number of people possible to support the animal while maintaining control (usually two people for an adult dolphin). Move slowly and be quiet and calm. Keep crowds away.