Marine Mammal Mysteries: Stranding Response Efforts in The Bahamas

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Recent Strandings in The Bahamas

Sperm Whale, Eleuthera, December 2023
In December 2023, the head of a sperm whale washed ashore at Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera. Dr. Higgs and his team from the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) responded quickly. Unfortunately, the incident highlighted some public misconceptions. Some individuals tried to take pieces of the carcass, not realizing it’s illegal without permission from the Department of Marine Resources or the Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Network. There was also confusion about ambergris, a valuable substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. Ambergris, often called “floating gold,” is used in high-end perfumes for its unique scent. To clear up misconceptions, we shared our informative ambergris video on social media.

Sperm whale head, Eleuthera, December 2023

Humpback Whale Calf, Cat Island, Jan 2024

In January 2024, a near-term humpback whale calf stranded on Cat Island. Stranding network responder Nikita Shiel-Rolle reported the incident, and Fisheries Officer Nathaniel Gilbert collected genetic samples. The calf, approximately 10 feet (3 meters) long, was too decomposed for further analysis.

Humpback whale calf, Cat Island, January 2024

Risso’s Dolphin, Harbour Island, March 2024

A Risso’s dolphin was found dead on Harbour Island in March 2024. A dedicated team, including Dr. Sands, Dr. Higgs from CEI, and others, performed a necropsy. The dolphin, a 10-foot-long male, was emaciated with an empty stomach. Samples were taken for analysis to test for Brucella, morbillivirus, and genetic studies.

Risso’s dolphin, Harbour Island, March 2024

BMMRO Joins The Global Stranding Network


Exciting news! The Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Network has joined the Global Stranding Network. This international coalition brings together stranding networks from around the world to share data, resources, and expertise to improve the response to and understanding of marine mammal strandings. By joining this network, we’re now part of a global effort to protect marine mammals, leveraging international collaboration to enhance our conservation strategies.

In April, we exported preserved specimens from fourteen stranding events over the past two decades to NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Centre (Figure 4). These samples will be examined for diseases, providing insights into the health of our marine mammals and, by extension, our marine environment. We look forward to the day when we can conduct these analyses right here in The Bahamas.

Preparing samples for export, April 2024

Manatee Sightings

We also received reports of manatee sightings from the public. In March, a manatee was spotted in Spanish Wells, possibly a re-sighting of ‘Calypso’, one of Gina’s calves born in 2018. Additional sightings occurred in Abaco and Grand Bahama in May.

Manatee sightings in Spanish Wells (left) and Abaco (right). 



Why Report A Stranding? 

Strandings provide crucial information about marine mammal biology and health, which reflects the overall health of our marine ecosystems. This includes data on species age, diet, and disease prevalence within populations. Reporting strandings helps us gather this essential information.



The Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Network

The Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO), in partnership with the Bahamas Department of Marine Resources, Southeast U.S. Marine Mammal Stranding Network, and Atlantis’ Dolphin Cay, established the Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Since 2008, over 70 participants and a dozen veterinarians from 15 Bahamian islands have been trained as network members.


When a stranding is reported, the network springs into action, with the nearest member responding quickly. Regular training workshops are conducted for Bahamians. Interested in participating? Join our Google group for updates, and visit our website for more information on stranding response.

Written by: Charlotte Dunn | Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation |