‘CSI of the Sea’ whale stranding investigators secure fresh funding

ZSL-led UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme remit also expands to include stranded sharks. 

Sperm whale at Skegness

The team of scientists responsible for investigating whale strandings around the UK’s coastline has secured additional Government funding to continue their vital studies for the next three years. In addition to ongoing investigation of stranded whales, dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks and marine turtles, the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) will now also expand to encompass research into strandings of other large-bodied shark species, such as the porbeagle (Lamna nasus). 

Coordinated by scientists from ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and working alongside partners the Natural History Museum, Scotland’s Rural College, Marine Environmental Monitoring in Wales and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust Marine Strandings Network, the CSIP was launched in 1990 with funding from Defra and the Devolved Governments in Scotland and Wales. 

Tasked with the post-mortem examination of stranded marine animals around Britain’s coast, the CSIP provides a vital source of data for monitoring the various health threats facing these iconic species – from accidental entanglement in fishing gear (by-catch) and ship-strike, to the insidious effects of persistent organic pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). 

CSIP project manager Rob Deaville from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology comments: “Given the challenges facing many publicly-funded projects right now, we’re naturally delighted that Defra and the Devolved Governments continue to recognise the ongoing importance of our work. 

“We’re also really excited at the prospect of expanding CSIP’s remit to include additional large-bodied shark species such as the Angelshark (Squatina squatina), as we strive to understand more about the threats facing these iconic marine animals and try to improve their future conservation status. We can’t do this vital work without the public’s help, so we’re calling on them to keep reporting sightings of stranded animals via the CSIP hotline.”

Killer whale on beach

CSIP will be live-streaming the post-mortem examination of a harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena​) via ZSL’s website on Monday 12 March (19:00 GMT). This third instalment of its popular ‘CSI of the Sea’ live events will explore the impacts of by-catch on UK cetacean populations. 

ZSL and CSIP will also be hosting a scientific event on Tuesday 10 April at ZSL London Zoo, exploring the issue of cetacean by-catch and how the UK strandings programme helps inform efforts to mitigate the impact of this significant threat. 

The public can report strandings to the CSIP by calling the UK strandings hotline on 0800 6520333. 

Find out more about the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme

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