Groups to Congress: Restore Critical Funding for Stranded Sea Mammals
Thursday, March 26, 2015
YARMOUTH PORT, Mass. – Hundreds of dolphins, seals and whales are stranded on beaches in the Bay State every year, but dwindling government support is making the job to save them extremely difficult for rescuers and scientists.
Katie Moore is a marine mammal rescuer and scientist for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in Yarmouth Port. She says her group not only rescues the stranded animals, but also studies them, which gives scientists a glimpse into the health of the environment.
"We do a lot of health assessments, and we are looking for zoonotic diseases for one thing, and those are diseases that can be passed between animals and humans," she explains. "And that tells us about how healthy is the ecosystem that we rely on for shellfish and commercial fisheries and recreation."
Marine mammals are protected under a federal law, the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It falls under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to fulfill the mission of rescuing and releasing them - but Moore says since 2000, both NOAA and Congress have reduced funding by about 70 percent.
IFAW has an online petition asking Congress and NOAA to restore Prescott Grant Funding for marine mammal rescue programs nationwide.
Moore blames this lack of funding for the struggles her organization and others around the country - many of them nonprofits - are facing to save the animals, despite private funds and scores of volunteers who help. This means stranded animals in some areas could go without help, she adds.
"It also means that we're not out there keeping tabs on the health of that ecosystem," Moore says. "Animals really can tell us when something's happening. They can be a kind of early warning system, and if we're not there to do that, then that can put people in harm's way, if we're not there to see what's happening."
Moore says if you see a dead or stranded sea animal on the beach, call your local police. They usually have a link to the local stranding network. Another option is a call to one of NOAA's regional hotlines to report stranded or beached marine animals.
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