Posts Tagged 'marine mammals'

How the Shutdown is Affecting Stranding Response Organizations

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update
The government shutdown, now in its sixteenth day, has caused a ripple effect that impacts not only federal entities, but local, state, and private sectors as well.

The National Aquarium is a private, nonprofit aquatic education and conservation organization whose mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. While we are not a federally-operated facility, we depend on many federal partners to fulfill our mission, as do many private zoos, aquariums, and conservation organizations. Our Animal Rescue division at the National Aquarium, along with all of our stranding response associates, has felt a real impact from the government shutdown.

Our Animal Rescue division is federally permitted to respond to and rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals (dolphins, whales, seals, etc) and sea turtles.

national aquarium animal rescue

The on-going shutdown has had impacted our daily operations in several different ways:

  • Reduced response area and capacity to respond to sick or injured marine mammals and sea turtles on federal property. Over half of the Atlantic coast of Maryland is federal property, which includes Assateague Island National Seashore. With limited staffing, patrols of the federal beach have subsided, as has reporting of animals in need and access to those potential animals.
  • Slowed investigation of the on-going Unusual Mortality Event (UME) affecting bottlenose dolphins along the mid-Atlantic. The ongoing federal investigation into the bottlenose dolphin UME that is suspected to be a result of an outbreak of dolphin morbillivirus, has been slowed by the shutdown. Private stranding facilities are still actively responding to stranded dolphins (where they can access them on non-federal property) and taking samples from the animals, but those samples have been delayed in shipping for testing due to the shutdown, and the investigation has slowed.
  • Skewed data for UME response and normal stranding operations. In areas that don’t have access to federal coastal property during the shutdown, there has been a perceived change in annual stranding data, with a lack of information coming from federal areas. This has been true for the ongoing UME, with lower numbers being reported in areas that have coastal federal response areas. We are also preparing for a possible increase in stranding numbers once the federal areas return to normal operation and report the potential ‘backlog’ cases.

Despite the government shutdown, stranding facilities have banded together to assist each other and continue to plan the response for the on-going Unusual Mortality Event. Our perseverance and continual communication with each other has allowed us to stay on task as much as possible during the shutdown, and fill the shoes of those federal entities that we normally report to on a daily basis.

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Rare whale sightings in Maryland

Visitors to the beaches of Ocean City, Maryland, have been treated to some rare and interesting sightings recently. Our Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) has received several reports of large whales feeding very close to shore over the last week, which makes for great viewing while on vacation.

The whale in the photograph below has been identified as a humpback whale and was spotted at 42nd Street in Ocean City on June 18. The picture was provided courtesy of Jennifer and Steve Gower.

Our MARP staff members have been fielding a lot of questions about these sightings, so we’d like to share some important information:

As you can see from the picture, the whale is very close to the shore. The Mid-Atlantic coast is a popular destination for migrating marine mammals (dolphins, whales, seals or manatees) and sea turtles, but recently these animals are coming much closer to land.

Why is that? Large whales, like most marine animals, tend to congregate in areas where food is plentiful. Recently, large schools of Atlantic menhaden have been spotted along the Atlantic coast of Maryland and Delaware. As a result of this, there have been several big pods of dolphins, and even large whales spotted very close to shore feeding on the menhaden; at times there have even been reports of dolphins and large whales feeding in the same area together – what an exciting sight!

Continue reading ‘Rare whale sightings in Maryland’

Ilya the manatee returns home

We are happy to share that Ilya, the wayward manatee who made an amazing journey up the East Coast this past summer, has finally made it home safely to the warm waters of Florida. His journey was an incredible story of many organizations, across many states, coming together to help an animal who lost its way.

The first confirmed sighting of Ilya was in Havre de Grace, Maryland back in July by the National Aquarium’s animal rescue team. The Aquarium and the Coast Guard kept tabs on the animal to ensure its safety and monitor its movements while in Maryland. Ilya continued to travel north and ended up in North Jersey. All along the way marine animal rescue groups, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and the Coast Guard were keeping a close watch on Ilya.

Manatees need to be in water temperatures of 68 degrees Fahrenheit to survive.  Most who wander north make it back safely on their own before water temperatures drop, but in Ilya’s case, officials agreed that a human rescue effort would give him the best chance at surviving. In October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinated an effort to rescue and transport Ilya to the Miami SeaAquarium in Florida. The Miami SeaAquarium rehabilitated Ilya for a few months and released him back into the warm waters of the Miami coast on Wednesday.

For more on Ilya’s rehab and release, check out this video:

 

Special visitor to the bay

The Bay has a special summer visitor! The National Aquarium’s marine animal rescue team has confirmed a manatee sighting in Havre de Grace, MD over the weekend. The Aquarium and the Coast Guard are keeping tabs on the animal to ensure its safety and monitor its movements.

31712-Manatee%20in%20water      31712-Manatee%20in%20water%20with%20person

Aquarium staff members reached out federal officials at the U.S. Geological Society in Florida to possibly identify the animal and its usual locale in southern waters. Because of unique scarring on its tail, the manatee was successfully identified as “Ilya” M1062 (‘eel – YAH’), a male who was first photo-documented in 1994 when he was still a dependent calf.  ALL of his known history, through 2006, has been from sites in the Miami area.

We bring this to your attention to share important information when it comes to public interaction with marine animals. Local boaters and others around this part of the Bay need to be aware that the animal is in the vicinity and use common sense practices to keep themselves and the manatee safe:

  • Boaters to these areas should slow down when traveling by boat in inlets and around shallows to avoid striking the manatee, and observe no wake signs.
  • No one should approach the manatee. It is a violation of Federal law to touch, disturb or interact with marine mammals. This includes feeding them – no feeding!
  • Keep at least a 50 foot distance. This is for human safety as well – manatees are not aggressive but they are wild animals, not tamed or conditioned to human interaction. Continue reading ‘Special visitor to the bay’

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