Dolphin stranding response update: Kudos to Kerry and Keating

The International Fund for Animal Welfare Marine Mammal Rescue and Research team here at IFAW has been busy with strandings and with the data we are generating from this winter’s HUGE common dolphin stranding event.

My apologies for not getting an update posted sooner.

Here is where we stand so far: in addition to the main stranding event that lasted from January 12th to February 16th, we continued to have mass strandings each week through the first week of April. 

We have had a total of 214 common dolphins strand this year.  116 were found dead and 98 were found alive.   Of those live animals we were able to collect vital information, assess their health and successfully release 73 healthy dolphins back to the wild (that’s a 74% success rate!!!) 

While the rate of dolphin strandings has gotten back to normal (thank goodness!), we have responded to 236 total stranded marine mammals so far in 2012 (including dolphins, whales, porpoises and seals). 

This number already exceeds our annual average of 228 animals.  It’s going to be a record breaking year.

In addition to entering our data into the database, sending samples out for analysis and collating the reams of information we are generating we are still fighting to keep the only federal support for stranding response alive in the upcoming federal budget. 

You may have seen the recent articles in the Cape Cod Times or other papers about progress in re-instating the NOAA Prescott Stranding Grant Program.  We got some optimistic news last week that the Senate had included a line item for this competitive grant program in its proposed budget (Hurray! Thank you Senator Kerry!).  

Alas, our cautious optimism was quickly tempered by the news that the House did not include a line item for this essential program.  However, it is clear that the efforts of Congressman Keating have not gone completely unnoticed- the House did include a statement with their proposed budget that urged NOAA to fund the Prescott program within its given budget if possible.

So, last Friday afternoon I sat here at my desk and sighed. I am so grateful to Senator Kerry and Congressman Keating for their strong support of this key marine mammal stranding response funding program. 

They realize that this is the only federal support specifically designated for stranding response – a task that NOAA is mandated to complete under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 

Stranding network organizations, mainly non-profits, currently fulfill this mandate for NOAA with no guarantee of federal support.  We all rely on foundation grants and private donations to do our work. 

The Prescott Grant program (although not a guaranteed source of funds since it is a competitive program) is our only real source for federal support.  We then leverage private donations and grants to provide matching funding for every grant we receive.

At this point, the Prescott grant program, through the matching funds requirement, has brought an additional $12 million into the stranding response program. How many federal programs out there do a better job in generating funding and public support to do the work?

-- KM

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