Stranding, Health & Rehabilitation

Stranding, Health & Rehabilitation

 

 

To report a marine mammal stranding, call 1-888-404-FWCC

 

Protect Wild Dolphins plate  Protect Florida Whales plate

This work is funded by proceeds from the Protect Wild Dolphins and Protect Florida Whales specialty license plates granted through the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation.

 

Mission Statement

The mission of the Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (FAU Harbor Branch) Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Program (MMRC) is to “Protect Wild Dolphins and Whales” through conservation, stranding response, research, collaboration and education. All activities support and compliment the Southeast Marine Mammal Stranding network by providing resources, expertise in a variety of disciplines.


Goals and Objectives

dolphin with life preserver

FAU Harbor Branch specific objectives for dolphin conservation:

provide care and assistance to sick or injured dolphins; respond to and recover stranded marine mammals; conduct necropsy investigations; assist multi-agency network response to disentangle and/or relocate out-of-habitat dolphins; disseminate data to state and federal agencies and provide education and public outreach.

 

FAU Harbor Branch specific objectives for whale conservation:

provide care and assistance to stranded whales; respond to and recover stranded marine mammals; conduct necropsy investigations; assist multi-agency network response to identify and/or disentangle large whales; disseminate data to state and federal agencies; assist agencies and organizations with studies on endangered right whales and to provide education and public outreach.

 

Marine Mammal Rescue Program Summary

Established in 1998, the FAU Harbor Branch Marine Mammal Rescue Program was developed to respond to stranding events in Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties. The stranding team also assists our stranding partners throughout Florida. The FAU Harbor Branch rescue team operates as a marine mammal stranding responder under a letter of authorization issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

The rescue team is made up of certified staff and faculty from the university as well as trained volunteers from the community. The group maintains a ready state 24/7 year-round.

beach stranding


By the Numbers (1999 to present):

  • 233 stranding events containing 300 individuals, involving 15 cetacean species and two pinniped species
  • 184 necropsies including multiple cases for our stranding partners who were unable to complete them
  • 52 dolphin rescues and disentanglements responses
  • Marine animal transports throughout Florida
  • Mass stranding responses throughout Florida
  • One of a few certified and permitted NOAA Fisheries large whale disentanglement members in Florida, providing NOAA Fisheries with a Southeast Florida team of responders able to go offshore to respond to the endangered North Atlantic Right whale and Humpback whales
  • 20-30 volunteers from the community assist the program throughout the year
  • 70 miles of coastline along Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties encompass the FAU Harbor Branch designated response area 


FAU Marine Mammal Rescue Team Response (2014 to present): 

  • 140 Dolphin/whale incident reports/calls
  • 20 Sea turtle stranding’s, transports and rescues
  • 53 Manatee strandings, rescues and releases under a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) permit
  • 58 Outreach events including presentations, school classroom talks and festivals 
beach stranding


Collaborators

The FAU Harbor Branch Marine Mammal Rescue Team maintains a close working relationship the following southeast United States Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Network members: Chicago  Zoological Society, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Dolphin’s Plus Marine Mammal Responder, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station, Gulf World, Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, Marine Animal Rescue Society, Mote Marine Lab, Sea World Orlando and University of Florida. FAU Harbor Branch has provided hundreds of tissue samples to NOAA Fisheries agencies, their laboratory contractors and many collaborators from post mortem exams to support ongoing marine mammal health research. 


Links:

Marine Mammal Protection Act 

Southeast Fisheries Science Center's Marine Mammal Stranding website 

Understanding Marine Wildlife Stranding and Response