​​​​​​​​​​​​What We Do

The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center Stranding Response Program is responsible for rendering aid to all marine mammals and sea turtles that come ashore in Virginia. Whether sick, injured, dead, or entrapped and unable to return to their natural habitats, the Stranding Program works to examine these animals and provide the most humane course of action given the situation.

Since the program's inception, over 20 years ago, the Stranding Response team has responded to thousands of stranded marine mammals and sea turtles.

Learn more about the important work that the Stranding team does on our blog here.

To report a stranded marine mammal or sea turtle, please call us on the 24 hour Stranding Hotline at (757) 385-7575.

Observer Guidelines​

Seeing a marine mammal or sea turtle is one of the greatest experiences a person can have, but we encourage you to have safe interactions with these wild animals. For the complete list of guidelines, please click here. For a few quick guidelines, see below:

On the Water:

  • Do not get closer than 50 yards to sea turtles, dolphins, whales (500 yards for right whales) or seals.
  • Never surround or circle animals.​

On the Beach:

  • Whales, dolphins, porpoises, and manatees on the beach should be reported to the Stranding Team immediately. To report a stranding, please call the 24 hour Stranding Hotline at (757) 385-7575
  • Seals are frequent visitors to our waters, and do stop to rest on our beaches. While most that are resting on the shore are healthy, please report any sightings to our Stranding Response Program by calling (757) 385-7575.
  • It is very rare to see a healthy sea turtle on our shoreline, so please always call us at (757) 385-7575 to dispatch a Stranding Response Program representative to assess the animal's health and well-being.

Pier Partner Program

Even a minor injury, such as a simple hook in the mouth, can pose a risk to a sea turtle. In an effort to help educate local anglers, the Aquarium has begun partnering with local piers in the Pier Partner Program. The six local piers, Buckroe Fishing Pier, Little Island Fishing Pier, Lynnhaven Fishing Pier, Ocean View Fishing Pier, Sea Gull Fishing Pier, and Virginia Beach Fishing Pier, have signage and pier managers have been trained in what to do if a sea turtle has been hooked. Once hooked, Pier Partners call the Stranding Response Program and team members are dispatched to begin rehabilitation for the turtle.

Volunteer With Stranding

The Stranding Response Program runs thanks to staff members and well-trained volunteers. To learn how to become a part of this team, please click here​​​. Want to help, but can't volunteer? Our team runs primarily on donations and grant funding, and rehabilitation can be costly. Make a donation today.​