New England Aquarium ceases marine mammal field responses; NOAA to assist with seal, dolphin, and whale strandings as of May 1

Aquarium to focus on sea turtle rescue efforts

BOSTON, MASS. (April 16, 2020) – With the New England Aquarium handling an increasing number of strandings of endangered and threatened sea turtles in Massachusetts, the marine conservation institution is focusing its efforts on responding to distressed sea turtles and shifting marine mammal field response to the region’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), effective May 1, 2020. Going forward, NOAA will respond to calls about stranded seals, dolphins, and whale species.

Over the past five years, the number of annual strandings of sea turtles has tripled, placing significant demands on the capacity of the Aquarium staff, resources, and facilities. During this same time, the Aquarium operated a busy marine mammal stranding hotline, covering the shoreline from Plymouth to Salem. The majority of hotline calls were related to the monitoring of seals, whose populations have experienced an enormous comeback across the region over the past three decades, a significant marine conservation success. The Aquarium has not conducted seal rehabilitation for more than a decade given their robust populations.

After careful consideration and evaluation, Aquarium staff reviewed its rescue and rehabilitation efforts through the lens of its conservation mission and how the program is protecting endangered species and having measurable conservation impacts. As a result, the Aquarium will focus its expertise and resources on helping sea turtle populations and phase out rescue and response activities for marine mammals.

“Our sea turtle rescue program helps us achieve our conservation mission and allows us to have the greatest impact on endangered and threatened species,” said Connie Merigo, the Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Manager. “As an institution, protecting the blue planet is our principle mission, and we have staff strength in clinical research as well as research around leatherback turtles, rehabilitation, and post-release monitoring. That is where we will focus our attention.”

As of May 1, NOAA will handle field responses to marine mammals. The Aquarium’s right whale programs are unaffected by this decision, and Aquarium staff will assist NOAA with cetaceans on a case-by-case basis, depending on availability.

HERE IS THE HOTLINE NUMBER FOR MARINE MAMMAL STRANDING INSTRUCTIONS: 866-755-6622

HERE IS THE HOTLINE NUMBER FOR SEA TURTLE STRANDINGS: 617-973-5247

HERE IS THE WEBSITE FOR MARINE MAMMAL STRANDING INSTRUCTIONS: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/report

MEDIA CONTACT:

Pam Bechtold Snyder
617-686-5068
psnyder@neaq.org