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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...

Tag, you’re (a nitw)it!

On May 1st, a stranded minke whale found on a New Jersey beach was “tagged” with what appear to be Greek Letters-a frat prank perhaps? While “tagging” a whale may seem like a harmless prank, it’s harmful to conservation and dangerous to the “tagger.”

I have personally written on many dead marine mammals but only when they can’t be removed from the beach.  This ensures that the same animals aren’t reported over and over again to the stranding networks as new cases.  The key is that I did so AFTER examining the animal and while wearing the proper safety gear. 

Stranded marine mammals are thoroughly examined for signs of injuries which can be subtle.  Painting the carcass can conceal a mark that may help researchers understand what happened to the animal.  Injuries consistent with vessel strikes, or entanglements, can help managers understand where areas of high risk are, and help create measures to reduce those risks. 

But perhaps the taggers are not into protecting whales and aren’t worried if they concealed injuries on the carcass.  Maybe then they should worry if they were protected when they got close to a dead whale.  Whales are mammals and, as such, we share more than the air we both breathe; we share the same risk of infection from a number of bacteria that can lead to nasty and, if not properly treated, deadly diseases.   Brucella, for example, is a fascinating encapsulated bacteria that can be transmitted to humans. If you’re lucky, it leaves you achy, depressed and unable to be a blood donor.  If you’re not so lucky, then you can only hope that whomever finds your body doesn’t have a can of spray paint in hand when they do.