Government response

MMO clarifies rules around rescue of cetaceans

The MMO has explained the rules around rescuing protected marine species.


Following the death of a dolphin in Brixham the Marine Management Organisation has clarified the regulations covering attempts to rescue them.

Dolphins, porpoises and whales are protected marine species. Wildlife legislation including the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 generally makes activity disturbing, harming or killing them an offence.

However if someone is coming to the aid of an animal classed as disabled then activities are covered by a defence in the legislation.

With regards to the recent situation in Brixham the MMO has confirmed that the activity was permissible under legislation as an ill dolphin attempting to beach itself would be considered disabled and therefore no offences were committed by rescuers.

The MMO has previously issued guidance about how to safely watch marine wildlife and recommends people make themselves aware of the WiSe scheme.. Guidance has also been published on observing seals.

If you find a stranded marine mammal

If you find a stranded animal please do not return them to the sea as they may need time to recover. Contact the British Divers Marine Life Rescue or RSPCA for advice.

If you see mammals being disturbed

If you see marine mammals being disturbed, please contact your nearest MMO office or local police force wildlife crime officer on 101.

In Cornwall incidents can also be reported to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust on their 24 hour hotline 0345 201 2626.

Published 24 August 2016