Whale Release & Strandings

About us



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.

Photo 2009-11-04, 12 02 22 PM.jpg


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.


From the beginning, the overarching program objectives have been:

(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.

The program was designed and developed to cater to the needs of over 800 fishing communities dotted along over 17,000km of coastline (Lien, 1980). 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


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. 




Whale Release and Strandings

244 Tolt Rd.

Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, NL

A1M 1R2

Toll Free: (888) 895-3003

Email: Whales(at)nl.rogers.com