Why Do Whales Beach Themselves?

It can be a very sad sight to see whales, giants of the sea, washed up onto the sand or unable to move in shallow waters. If whales are alive when they are found, they can be treated and put back into the sea, but this is rare. Often by the time they are found they are too sick, or perhaps they were already ill when they washed up to shore. Nobody really knows why whales beach themselves, but scientists have a few theories as to why it might be happening.

Scientists are discovering that whales beaching themselves is on the rise, which is concerning to their population.

Why do whales beach themselves?

There are a number of theories as to why whales might beach themselves including:

• Pollution: As our waterways are becoming more polluted, whales and other sea animals are suffering. They can become sick or poisoned from chemicals in the sea.

• Man-made sonar: People use sonar waves to explore and map the ocean. Unfortunately, these pulses may be disorienting or confusing whales in their own use of echolocation. They can then become lost and accidentally beach themselves.

• Sickness or disease: Like any living creature, whales are susceptible to sickness or disease that may come about for an unknown reason or due to age.

• They are trying to help another whale: There is a theory that some whales beach themselves trying to find a whale who is crying out in distress because they have been beached. They try to follow their calls and end up in shallow waters or on the sand themselves.

• The whale had died before beaching: Sometimes the whale is already dead when it becomes beached on the sea. It may have died naturally or from another cause.

What can you do to help?

It might seem like a helpless situation, but cleaning up and making sure you and your friends are environmentally friendly is a step in the right direction. Ensuring you put your rubbish in the bin and even organising beach cleanup days can help prevent that rubbish and its chemicals from going into the sea.

Why do whales beach themselves? Learn about this and more—and about how to help protect these beautiful mammals. Call Brisbane Whale Watching today, if you or your class want to see whales in action.

Kerry Lopez

Captain of the Eye Spy
26 August 2015