United Kingdom National Whale Stranding Database 1913-2008

The Natural History Museum, London

Dataset credit

The Natural History Museum, London


Primary contact Strandings Officer The Natural History Museum, London
Data entry Connie Kot



The Natural History Museum has been monitoring whale strandings since 1913. In 1324, a statute was passed which gave the Crown qualified rights to cetaceans stranded on, or caught in the waters of England and Wales. Similar rights were claimed for the Crown of Scotland. The animals were described as "Fishes Royal."

In 1913, by agreement with the then Board of Trade, these rights were transferred to the Natural History Museum in London, at that time known as the British Museum (Natural History). Since then, in monitoring cetacean strandings, over 8,000 animals have been recorded, some of the species being new to British waters. Initially, information was stored on a card index. Latterly, information is collated and entered on computer. The resulting database is used to produce distribution maps and analyze information about the biology and ecology of the different species.

The National Stranded Whale Recording Scheme is now the center of a coordinated investigation, funded since April 1990 by the then United Kingdom (UK) Department of the Environment, subsequently by the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions, and now the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, into the biology and ecology of cetacean populations around the British Isles and is a contribution to the UK's program of research on the North Sea and its response to ASCOBANS (the Agreement on the conservation of Small Cetaceans Of the Baltic And North Seas). Investigations are carried out in association with the Institute of Zoology at Regents Park, London (London Zoo) which has responsibility for coordinating autopsies.


Every year, between 350 and 800 whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans) wash up on British shores. Most are dead, but some are still alive. The Museum is responsible for monitoring these strandings. Since The UK Whale & Dolphin Stranding Scheme started in 1913, more than 11,000 animals have been recorded. Museum scientists study the remains of dead stranded cetaceans to learn more about their biology. Their investigations reveal how many cetaceans strand in Britain each year, what species they are, where and when they strand, and the age and sex of the animals. They also research animal behavior and uncover causes of death.

The data our scientists compile is used by other researchers, government agencies, conservationists and animal welfare groups. The information they provide is vital to increasing our understanding of whales, dolphins and porpoises, and conserving them in the future. The UK Whale & Dolphin Stranding scheme is one of the longest-running scientific investigations of its kind. It has generated a wealth of crucial information about these captivating marine mammals.

Supplemental information

Time was not provided and filled with "00:00:00." Records without a date or latitude/longitude and a grid reference information were excluded.
Pregnant individuals are not counted as mass strandings, even where the offspring are partially born, and the data given does not record this detail.
This dataset is an updated version of a previous dataset published on SEAMAP as "UK NHM Whale Strandings 1970-79," last modified on 2004-03-11 12:42:47.




This section explains attributes included in the original dataset. OBIS-SEAMAP restricts the attributes available to the public to date/time, lat/lon and species names/counts only. Should you need other attributes described here, you are encouraged to contact the data provider.

Attributes described below represent those in the original dataset provided by the provider.
Only minimum required attributes are visible and downloadable online. Other attributes may be obtained upon provider's permission.

Attributes in dataset

Attribute (table column)Description
oidUnique ID number (generated by SEAMAP)
masssinglePart of a mass or single stranding
obs_countNumber of animals observed
sp_tsnSpecies ITIS TSN
sp_obsSpecies observed
famgenusFamily or genus observed
speciesSpecies recorded
obs_dateObserved date
latitudeLatitude of observation
longitudeLongitude of observation
year_valYear of observation
month_valMonth of observation
day_valDay of observation
name_commonCommon name of animal observed
Marine mammals13,442
Sea turtles0
Rays and sharks0
Other species0
Non spatial0
Non species0
Date, Begin1913-02-13
Date, End2008-12-30
Temporal prec.111000
Latitude38.77 - 61.57
Longitude-27.38 - 2.65
Coord. prec.6 decimal digits
Data typeAnimal sighting
Traveled (km)0
Contr. through
Sharing policy CC-BY-NC (Minimum)
Shared with OBIS
GBIF (via DOI)
See metadata in static HTML
See metadata in FGDC XML
See download history / statistics