It is not uncommon for sharks and sea turtles to strand on Maritime shores. A number of these incidents are reported every year. Similar to cetaceans, sharks and sea turtles face a number of issues when stranded on a beach including exposure to sun and wind, overheating and suffocation and thus, it is critical that live animals are reported as soon as they are encountered.
If you find a stranded, injured or dead shark or sea turtle in Nova Scotia please call
the Marine Animal Response Society Hotline at:
While almost twenty species of shark and several species of sea turtle inhabit our Canadian waters, strandings on Maritime shore are often limited basking sharks and leatherback turtles.
If you see a shark or sea turtle that is stranded on land or in distress offshore, you should:
1. Determine if it is alive or dead
This is the first major question to answer; however, a word of caution. Sharks can be very unpredictable and dangerous. Be sure not to get too close to the tail or jaws.
If the animal is dead or dies while being observed, please see our “What to do about dead animals” page and report it to MARS immediately as post mortem examination of any dead animal is very important.
2. What species is it?
If the animal is alive, the next important step is to determine what species it is. To identify stranded sharks and sea turtles, please visit our species profiles.
Once you have gathered the information below, you should contact MARS immediately:
1. The exact location of the animal for accurate directions
2. The number of stranded animals
3. The time that you first sighted the animal(s)
4. The species of the animal, if you are able to identify it
5. A description of the animal (size, colouring, and other physical features)
6. A description of the animal’s condition. Is it weak and gaunt? Are there any open wounds?
7. Does it have any identification tags or markings?
8. After calling the Marine Animal Response Society, you may be given instructions that you can follow to help the stranded animal(s)
Things to keep in mind:
• Do not touch, pick up or feed the animal(s) unless otherwise directed
• Do not try to return the animal to the water or interact with the animal more than is necessary or directed. sharks and sea turtles can bite and harm people by swinging their tail or flippers.
• Observe the animal from a distance of at least 50 feet, if possible, and keep other people and dogs away from the area. One of the best things you can do is to keep the animal calm by keeping crowds away and keeping noise to a minimum.
• If possible, take photographs of the animal from all angles.