The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is reaching out to residents of Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and North shore communities for help reporting stranded and injured marine mammals, NOAA spokeswoman Maggie Mooney-Seus said in a press release Monday. The primary species at risk of stranding on the Island are seals.
NOAA turned to individuals following unsuccessful efforts to find an organization to join its Marine Mammal Stranding Network and volunteer to service the three communities affected by animal strandings. With the season during which strandings are common approaching, NOAA extended its offer to the communities themselves this week while they continue to search for a volunteer organization, according to a press release.
“Until we find an organization that is able to help us in our effort, our response to reports of stranded animals is going to have to be more measured,” regional marine mammal stranding program coordinator Mendy Garron said in the press release. “We aren’t going to be able to pick up every animal reported.”
Not every marine mammal on the beach is stranded, according to NOAA. “The good news is that in many cases an on the ground response isn’t necessary,” said Ms. Garron. “Often animals like seals are just using coastal areas to rest or take care of their young.”
She added, “We also want to encourage members of the public to continue reporting animals that they encounter. The more information we have about a particular situation, the better we can assess how to properly respond or even if any response is warranted.”
NOAA has specific recommendations.
To report a stranding, call NOAA’s regional 24-hour hotline, 866-755-6622.
To report someone harassing a marine mammal, contact NOAA’s law enforcement office, 800-853-1964.
Maintain a safe distance of at least 150 feet from the animal to avoid injury to you or injury to the animal. It is illegal for an unauthorized person to come within 150 feet of a stranded marine mammal.
From a safe distance, take a picture and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org so that NOAA can identify the species and determine if a response is warranted.
Network members are volunteer organizations trained and federally authorized to respond to sick or injured dolphins, seals, and whales that are stranded along the U.S. shoreline. Authorized network members can assess, respond, and in some cases rehabilitate sick or injured marine mammals, according to NOAA.
Currently, the only authorized network member on Cape Cod is the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
The Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program was formalized in 1992 under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, following numerous mass strandings. Today, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network includes the wildlife rescue community, academic institutions, zoo/aquarium facilities, and federal, state or local government agencies. For more information, visit nero.noaa.gov/prot_res/stranding/.