Posts Tagged 'marine animal rescue program'



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’

Our commitment to the gulf

You can’t go far without seeing disturbing images as millions of gallons of oil threaten the Gulf’s irreplaceable ecosystem.

We’d like to share that the National Aquarium is poised to lend assistance. As an active member of the Northeast Region Stranding Network, we are closely connected with agencies responding to this disaster. We were notified to expect requests for help with the sea turtles injured by the oil. We are assessing our facility and have a team of highly skilled staff members ready to help.  Animals and oil are coming ashore now in significant numbers and response efforts must be coordinated, far-reaching and long term.

This man-made disaster has the potential to be devastating to these fragile animals. There are only seven species of sea turtles in the world, and all of them are endangered or threatened, at risk of being wiped out completely. Five of these vulnerable species frequent the Gulf of Mexico to breed and to lay their eggs. We believe the stakes are too high not to invest the time and resources to help as many turtles as possible. Truly, every sea turtle counts. Learn more about our efforts here.

Beyond this disaster, we remain committed to caring for stranded animals in our own mid-Atlantic region. This Saturday, June 19, we are proudly releasing three rare Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles that have been under our care since December.

The turtles came to the National Aquarium from New England and Delaware, suffering from cases of cold stunning- the sea turtle equivalent of hypothermia. After six months of rehabilitation by The National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP), the turtles, named Marshall, Patterson, and Hampden, are ready to return to their ocean home!

Continue reading ‘Our commitment to the gulf’

Rescued harbor seal is going home

Hastings strandingThis juvenile male harbor seal was stranded along the Atlantic coast of Maryland, in the town of Ocean City, on January 15, 2010. The Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) responded, and the seal was admitted to the National Aquarium for rehabilitation.

Upon admission, the seal was underweight, severely dehydrated, mildly emaciated, and medically compromised due to a wound behind the left front flipper. In addition to the wound, he was found to have an upper respiratory infection and a mild case of pneumonia at the time of being admitted for rehab.

The seal, called Hastings, was treated with antibiotics for several weeks, and his wound was treated every three days for two weeks. Hastings responded well to treatment and was soon interacting with enrichment devices, the animal equivalent of toys, and eagerly eating. While in rehab, Hastings gained nearly 20 pounds on a daily diet of herring and capelin. He is offered enrichment items to interact with, like frozen fishcicles and a holey bucket with fish inside, to encourage natural feeding behaviors.

Hastings

Tomorrow morning, a healthy Hastings will be returned to Ocean City for release back to his natural environment. The release is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., and will be broadcast live locally on WMAR-TV (Ch. 2).

Follow the Aquarium on Twitter (@NatlAquarium) for live tweets from the release, starting at 5 a.m. tomorrow.

Prior to release, MARP staff will affix a satellite transmitter to his fur, which will fall off when the seal molts (similar to when a dog sheds its fur). The transmitter will allow us to track and monitor the animal post-release, and will help scientists to understand the migration and feeding patterns of these animals.

A special delivery for MARP

MARP staff and volunteers have had a busy start to the new year after receiving three injured sea turtles from the New England Aquarium in mid-December. Due to extremely cold water temperatures in the New England region, the New England Aquarium rescued more than 100 sea turtles from local beaches in December alone, many on the brink of death due to cold-stunning.

Even though the New England Aquarium is known for its exceptional rehabilitation of sea turtles, that’s a lot of turtles for one Aquarium to handle. As some of the turtles began to stabilize, the New England Aquarium called on other facilities to help with the long-term rehabilitation process. Our MARP team was happy to help!

Our new patients were transported to Baltimore the week before Christmas, bundled in Chiquita banana boxes!

All three are Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, which is the most common sea turtle species seen in the New England area. Kemp’s are considered one of the most endangered sea turtles in the world. There are around 20,000 individuals, with 8,000 nesting females. As you can see from the picture below, upon arrival the turtles were pretty beaten up due to being tossed around in the waves and against rocks.

The turtles seem to be adjusting well to their new habitat. They are eating on a normal schedule and becoming more active with each day. These are signs that the turtles are on their way to a successful rehabilitation.

MARP to the rescue!

On July 27 our Marine Animal Rescue Program team took in a stranded female loggerhead sea turtle found near the inlet in Ocean City, Maryland by the Coast Guard. The turtle was observed floating near a rock jetty – in the surf headed for the rocks. The Coast Guard retrieved the turtle after noticing signs of exhaustion and failed attempts to swim away. She was transported to the Aquarium’s hospital pool in Baltimore later then evening.

Upon arrival she weighed 57 lbs, which is about 10-15 lbs under normal weight. The most interesting observation of the turtle was that she was covered in all kinds of epibionts (mussels, barnacles, algae, crabs, worms, etc.) upon retrieval, as you can see in the before and after pictures. The rescue team removed about 10 lbs of epibionts from the poor turtle. She also had many embedded barnacles on the carapace, plastron, limbs and head and has suffered superficial scale loss on all limbs.

» Continue reading ‘MARP to the rescue!’

Dolphins, dolphins everywhere

The group of dolphins currently feeding in New Jersey’s Shrewsbury River has been creating quite a buzz among residents and visitors of the New Jersey shore.

The National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program is a part of the North East Region Stranding Network, which is working closely with NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) on the situation. Experts at the Aquarium can report the following:

Biologists from NOAA have been able to keep a close watch on the pod of dolphins, which were identified earlier this week as coastal bottlenose dolphins. NOAA experts are continuing to evaluate the group but have reported that the biggest threat to them at the moment is behavior of humans eager to commune with them. 

The animals appear to be in good body condition, they are socializing, and do not appear to be in distress. And at this time, NOAA has no definitive plans to move or attempt to herd the dolphins, although it is preparing to do so if it becomes necessary. “It’s a last resort,” said Teri Rowles, director of NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.  Such a process is complicated, usually has mixed success, and is highly stressful for the animals sometimes resulting in death.”

The National Aquarium reminds beach and shore travelers to be cautious and considerate of animals in these situations. Coastal bottlenose dolphins are accustomed to human activities in their habitat, but encounters can be risky for both people and the animals. 

We urge people to take advantage of the chance to see and appreciate these animals, but to do so from at least 50 yards away by using binoculars, spotting scopes, or telephoto zoom lens to get a closer look! Federal law prohibits interference with the animal’s natural behavior, pursuant the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.  Harassment is punishable by fines of up to $10,000.

Most importantly, if you come into contact with a marine animal notify the appropriate authorities: the U.S. Coast Guard, your local Aquarium, or fire or police departments.


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