The Aquarium's Stranding Response Team responds to marine mammal and sea turtle strandings throughout Virginia. Marine mammal groups found in Virginia include cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises and whales), pinnipeds (seals) and sirenians (manatees). State stranding records include 27 species of cetaceans, four species of seals, and one manatee species. Marine mammal strandings occur in all months of the year. During the 1990s, Virginia averaged 61 marine mammal strandings per year with a high of 105 in 1994. Since then, strandings have increased dramatically. For the years 2003-2012, Virginia has averaged 99 marine mammal strandings (Fig. 1). The dolphin mortality event of 2013 will easily make this a historic year for marine mammal strandings.

Virginia stranding records include five species of sea turtles: loggerhead, Kemp's ridley, leatherback, green, and hawksbill. Because they are cold-blooded reptiles, sea turtle strandings occur primarily in the late spring, summer and fall while water temperatures are warm. During the 1990s, the Aquarium's Stranding Response Team responded to an average of 83 sea turtle strandings per year. Since then, strandings have increased dramatically. For the years 2003-2012, Virginia has recorded an average of 262 sea turtle strandings per year (Fig. 6).

For more information about Virginia marine mammal and sea turtle strandings, check out our 2012 Stranding Network Report and Virginia Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Species List.