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Authorized volunteers sought to help with marine mammal strandings

Contact:        Maggie Mooney-Seus                                  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

                        978-281-9175                                               December 10, 2013            

 

 

Changes Coming in Response Efforts for Stranded and Injured Marine Mammals on Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Northshore, Massachusetts

 

NOAA Fisheries today announced changes in reporting and response procedures for seal, dolphin and whale strandings that occur on Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and the Massachusetts northshore from Salem/Beverly to the New Hampshire border.  Beginning January 1, residents in these areas should contact NOAA Fisheries regional stranding hotline 866-755-NOAA (6622) to report a sick, injured or dead marine mammal.

The New England Aquarium, which has served as the lead response agency under NOAA Fisheries stranding network for the shoreline from the Maine/New Hampshire border to Cape Cod and Islands, will be shifting its focus. It plans to limit its marine mammal response area and will no longer be covering Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Massachusetts northshore. Instead, the Aquarium is redirecting its resources to sea turtle stranding rehabilitation and research on existing and emerging diseases in marine mammals and sea turtles, which can affect whole populations.

“The Aquarium has done an outstanding job over the years, saving the lives of countless marine mammals and providing a valuable service to our agency which is charged with monitoring marine mammal populations in U.S. waters,” said Mendy Garron, marine mammal stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries. “While we certainly have a void to fill, we respect the Aquarium’s decision. The increased focus on sea turtle response and rehabilitation as well as the marine mammal and sea turtle research they are undertaking is critically important. In just the past two years, disease-related mass stranding events have occurred for harbor seals and bottlenose dolphins and there has been an increasing trend in sea turtle strandings in the Northeast.  This research will help us better understand and respond to what may be behind these larger-scale events.”

NOAA Fisheries is seeking volunteers to respond to stranded marine mammals on Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and the Massachusetts northshore.  We especially want to encourage anyone who has been working with the Aquarium and are interested in continuing to volunteer to contact NOAA Fisheries Stranding Coordinator, Mendy Garron at (978) 282-8478. Volunteers will be trained and formally authorized to respond to stranding reports in these areas.  

Marine mammal strandings are not uncommon along the northeast U.S. coast, especially in Massachusetts, which averages the highest annual marine mammal stranding rate between Maine to Virginia. Strandings occur for a variety of reasons including: advanced age, infectious diseases, harmful algal blooms, extreme weather or oceanographic events, as well as human caused impacts such as vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear or marine debris, and exposure to pollution. Strandings may involve individual animals or groups of animals. 

NOAA Fisheries is the federal agency responsible for monitoring marine mammal populations in the United States. In the Northeast, NOAA Fisheries relies on a team of dedicated, trained personnel from Maine to Virginia to assist the agency in carrying out its mission.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Network has been in existence for several decades and is comprised of organizations from the wildlife rescue community, academic institutions, zoo/aquarium facilities, and federal state or local government agencies. The Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP) was officially formalized in 1992 under the Marine Protection Act of 1972 after numerous mass strandings and unusual mortality events occurred around the country.  

For more information on the Northeast Region Stranding Program (covering the coastlines of Maine to Virginia), please visit our website https://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/prot_res/stranding/. To report a stranding please call NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional 24-hour hotline 866-755-NOAA (6622).  And, we want to remind members of the public to remember that marine mammals are wildlife. To minimize risk of injury or the spread of disease, it is important for you to maintain a safe distance and keep your pets away from injured or sick animals. 

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at http://www.noaa.gov or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/noaa.

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