Yearly stranding reports

As part of the implementation of the Royal Decree on marine species protection in the Belgian national waters, the institute produces annual reports on observations and strandings of marine mammals in Belgium. These reports are available in Dutch on this web page. Paper editions can be requested at marinemammals@naturalsciences.be.

Report of 2016

The newest marine mammal report presents an overview of marine mammals and remarkable fish washed ashore in Belgium in 2016. It also focuses on the causes of death, revalidation and release of animals that were taken into care, and briefly introduces the research on the influence of offshore windmill parks on the harbour porpoise.

The most remarkable stranding of 2016 undoubtedly concerned a narwhal, an Arctic animal that was last observed in the North Sea almost 70 years ago. Also two humpback whales were seen, and a basking shark and two ocean sunfishes washed ashore.

With 137 animals, the number of harbour porpoises that washed ashore was again very high. The major causes of death were incidental catch in fishing gear and predation by grey seals. Harbour porpoises were shown to avoid an area up to a distance of 20 km during the construction of offshore wind turbines.

White-beaked dolphins were reported on one day only, in contrast to bottlenose dolphins that were regular and prominent guests again. In April a severely decomposed male bottlenose dolphin washed ashore, followed by a heavily decomposed dolphin along the Scheldt a few days later. The species could not be determined anymore.

The number of strandings of dead and dying seals remained similar to previous years: six harbour seals, 11 grey and 12 unidentified seals. SEA LIFE Blankenberge took care of record high numbers: 15 grey and 24 common seals, including an albino animal. No less than 12 grey and 20 common seals could be returned to the wild after revalidation.