CSI of the Sea: what have we learnt from 30 years of investigating cetacean strandings?

11 January 2022, 18:00 - 19:30

For centuries, cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) have been found stranded around the UK coastline. But the role of human impacts in causing these events remained unclear until the advent of the collaborative ZSL-led UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP). The CSIP is contracted by UK Government to investigate stranding events to learn about their causes, and collect data that inform efforts to improve the long-term future of vulnerable marine species in our waters. 
In the 30-year period since its inception, the CSIP has recorded data on over 17,000 cetacean strandings and investigated over 4,500 through systematic and forensic post-mortem examinations. A wide variety of causes of death have been diagnosed, ranging from bycatch (incidental entanglement in fishing gear), ship-strike and bottlenose dolphin attack, to a condition analogous to decompression sickness in humans. The CSIP has also carried out extensive research into a range of threats over this period, including impacts from chemical, acoustic and physical pollution and climate change driven shifts in distribution. During this anniversary event we will explore the work of the CSIP in the UK over the last 30 years and discuss what our research reveals about the threats these species face and the state of the wider marine ecosystem. 


  • James Barnett, Cornwall Marine Pathology Team and CSIP: "The death of a harbour porpoise; a bycatch case study"

  • Nick Davison, Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, University of Glasgow: "The Darker Side of Dolphins; a bottlenose dolphin attack case"

  • Dr Andrew Brownlow, Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, University of Glasgow: "Lulu the killer whale: one tragic death in a sea of statistics?"

  • Rob Deaville, CSIP, Institute of Zoology, ZSL: "Introduction to CSI of the Sea: investigating UK strandings" and "Forever blowing bubbles - gas embolism in a Risso's dolphin"



  • Learn about the incredible findings from the CSIP over the past 30 years in this blog post by Rob Deaville.
  • The CSIP team have created a virtual poster and resource page to help provide more information and context to their work, featuring posters, papers, videos, audio, leaflets and other content. This will be available for the next month, so please feel free to take a look and comment and they will try to respond to any questions in due course. You can access the page here.


Catch up on the event on our YouTube channel here or watch below:

Please be aware that this event features some graphic images and video of post mortem examinations, viewer discretion is advised.


Science and Conservation Event Details:

  • This interactive online event was livestreamed to our YouTube channel found here: zsl.org/IoZYouTube. 

  • Please Subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive a notification before each of our events begin.

  • Each event will comprise of short presentations from experts in the topic, followed by interactive Q&A and panel sessions. Thank you to everyone who submitted a question - we encourage you to watch our events live so you can take part!

  • This event was produced by Eleanor Darbey, and facilitated by Linda DaVolls and Tendai Pottinger, ZSL.


ZSL Wild Science Podcast

We will be creating a fascinating podcast episode on the topic of this event, so keep an ear out! In the meantime, you can listen to our latest episode on wildlife pathology to learn more about Rob Deaville’s work with CSIP, alongside three other fantastic ZSL pathologists and veterinarians.  

Check out all other episodes of our award winning ZSL Wild Science podcast here. Don't forget to rate and review to help boost us in the charts, and subscribe on your podcast app so you don't miss any future episodes!


Further Information

  • Contact Eleanor Darbey at eleanor.darbey@zsl.org for any Science and Conservation Event and podcast related enquiries.
  • For press enquiries, please contact the ZSL Press Office: press.office@zsl.org.
  • For more information about how to join the ZSL Fellowship programme and engage with a network of thousands who are shaping the future of conservation, please click here.
  • Sign up here to receive email updates about forthcoming ZSL and Conservation Events.
  • Read the latest blog posts from our scientists and conservationists here.
  • Follow us on Twitter @ZSLScience to hear about new publications from our researchers, upcoming events and podcast episode releases. 
  • Follow us on Facebook @ZSLScienceAndConservation to receive notifications about new events.
  • To catch up on all our previous online events, you can find them on our YouTube channel, or here.

More Events