Find out about the health and safety guidelines you need to follow at a stranding.

Whale strandings can be dangerous places. Your safety is of paramount importance when helping at a stranding, DOC will take all practicable steps to minimise the risks to you. Follow the directions of DOC staff at all times. You are responsible for looking after your own safety and belongings.

For your safety and comfort

  • On arrival report to DOC staff at the Stranding Base.
  • Work in teams and partner up with a ‘buddy’.
  • Stay well clear of the tail and mouth - whales can become agitated when stressed.
  • Take care not to come into contact with body fluids or blowhole exhalent, as marine mammals can carry diseases. Use rubber gloves for handling injured animals and cover any abrasions you may have. Advise your GP if you become ill within two months of handling a marine mammal.
  • Attend to you and your families needs before that of the animals – drink plenty, take breaks as necessary, be sun smart, stay warm and stay safe! You are responsible for your own children.
  • Take particular care when in the water – never go beyond your comfort zone and stay visible to boats.
  • Volunteers in the water must be fit, healthy and able to swim.

You will need

  • Wetsuit: At most strandings you will not be allowed in the water without a wetsuit for safety reasons.
  • Wind proof jacket.
  • Sturdy shoes or wet suit booties.
  • Shorts and long-sleeved shirt.
  • Warm clothing and a hat for cold conditions.
  • Water proof jacket and trousers for cold conditions.
  • Sunhat, sunglasses, sun block.
  • Food and drink.
  • Shovels and buckets.
  • Durable rubber or diving gloves.
  • A complete change of warm clothes.

Do not bring dogs or expensive camera equipment to a stranding. Remember to remove watches and jewellery that may be lost or damage a whale’s skin.

Be prepared

If you are coming to help out at a stranding event at Farewell Spit and are available to stay the night and help out the following day if necessary, make sure you come prepared. Stock up with petrol, food, and water at Takaka or Collingwood so that you are self sufficient for the duration of your stay. Keep in mind that accommodation arrangements are your own responsibility.

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