Whale Release & Strandings

Newfoundland and Labrador

Whale Release




Whale Release and Strandings is a non-profit group that responds to whale, leatherback sea turtles and basking sharks entrapped in fishing gear, ice entrapped or stranded on the shoreline.

The group also conducts research projects and provides education outreach to fishers, community groups and schools on marine animal life in Newfoundland and Labrador waters.




To report a beached or entangled whale, dolphin, or sea turtle call our toll-free number.


We can offer advice or send a trained crew.


What to do if you see an entangled or stranded whale....


Phone Whale Release and Strandings’ toll-free number: 1 (888) 895-3003 

  1. Remember these are wild animals: use caution around them. Their powerful tail fins can inflict serious injuries.
  2. Do not try to disentangle the whale yourself
  3. Do not attempt to move large whales. This is very dangerous. 
  4. If possible take photographs and remember to put an object in for scale to help determine the size of the animal.


For more information please download our booklet. 


About us



Our Purpose

The program was designed and developed to cater to the needs of over 800 fishing communities dotted along over 17,000km of coastline. Entrapments in fishing gear and strandings of marine animals are reported to the Whale Release and Strandings Program by calling an advertised toll free number. A trained release team responds by providing advice or sending expert personnel with specialized gear to the site to provide assistance. The goal of each such entrapment response is the safe, clean rescue of the marine animal.

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program objectives

(1) to assist fishermen in the release of whales and other large marine animals from fishing gear, thereby decreasing fishing downtime and damage to their gear,

(2) to release entrapped animals as quickly and safely as possible,

(3) to collect information from fishermen and communities about marine animals which inhabit the waters around them, and

(4) to add to scientific knowledge on these species in Newfoundland and Labrador waters.


From 1979 to the present day a marine animal release program has operated in Newfoundland. This program responds to calls from fishermen and other individuals concerning accidental entrapments in fishing gear of large marine animals such as whales, leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriaca) and basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus). From 1979 through 1998 the program was run by Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Whale Research Group. The Canadian Coast Guard ran the program in 1999 with assistance from Jon Lien and in 2000 under the direction of Wayne Ledwell. The current coordinators, the independent Whale Release and Strandings Group, were incorporated and have run the program since 2001.





244 Tolt Rd

Portugal Cove -St.Philip's Nl

A1M 1R2


(888) 895-3003




The Whale Release and Strandings group is authorized by Fisheries and Oceans Canada as the responsible group in Newfoundland and Labrador for handling and disentangling cetaceans and sea turtles caught in fishing gear or stranded on our coastline.


Financial support for disentanglement work comes from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Financial support for strandings and marine educational has been obtained from Shell Canada, Canadian Wildlife Federation, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Esso Imperial Oil Foundation, Youth Eco Internship and corporate donors.