Skip to main content

Basic First Aid for Whales

Saving whales isn’t as easy as it looks, and if you don’t know what you’re doing you can sometimes do more harm than good.

Remember to report any stranding as soon as you discover it and follow these simple instructions:


  • If the whales are ‘high and dry’ then the first priority will be to cool them down
  • Pour water gently over them – focusing on their flippers, fins and flukes. Blood vessels are closest to the skin in these areas and if the whales are over-heating they will send blood to these extremities to cool down
  • Cover the whales with light coloured wet sheets. Sheets will protect the whale’s delicate skin from the sun and wind. It will also aid evaporation which in turn helps to cool the whale down
  • Depending on the weather, try and provide shelter or shade for the whale


  • Move any whales lying on their sides into an upright position. Dig a shallow indentation alongside the whale and roll them (with the help of others) upright. Use sand or sandbags to keep them in position
  • Dig holes under the flippers to relieve cramping. The holes should be deep enough so the flippers can hang freely down. Pools of water may collect in these holes, flush them out regular as the water will quickly heat up


  • Work quietly around the whales and avoid making sudden, loud noises. Keep excited children and dogs away
  • Allow the whales to see you as much as possible and avoid sitting or standing directly in front of their heads
  • Pour water gently over the head to flush away any sand or mucus from the whale’s eyes. Flies are attracted to this mucus and this can stress whales out
  • Appoint one person to be the whale’s ‘buddy’. Rotate this role so people can take breaks and the whale can bond with more than one person
  • Occasionally touching your whale may calm it down. Excessive contact should be avoided for health and safety reasons and to avoid damaging the whale’s skin. If you are touching whales please remove watches and any chunky jewellery and trim back long fingernails.


  • For your own safety please don’t stand near the tail, or straddle or step over it
  • Don’t pull the whale by its tail or pull on its fins
  • Don’t drag or roll the whale back to water
Download a Stranding Poster

Help us educate others by posting these up in your local community. Or better yet, become a Marine Mammal Medic and join our network of trained volunteers.

Take positive action today with a donation to Project Jonah.