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Mindful conservation – why we need a new respect for nature

'We should look at whales and dolphins as the indigenous people of the seas -...
tins of whale meat

How Japan’s whaling industry is trying to convince people to eat whales

Japan's hunters kill hundreds of whales every year despite the fact that hardly anyone in...
Common dolphins © Christopher Swann

Did you know dolphins have personalities?

Kidzone - quick links Fun Facts Our Goals Curious kids Kids blogs Fantastic fundraisers Gallery...
Microplastics on beach

Blue whales and the menace of microplastics – how we’ll solve this problem

Our love affair with plastic began in the 1950s when it revolutionised manufacturing. But what...
A dolphin called Arnie with his shell.

Dolphins catch fish using giant shell tools

In Shark Bay, Australia, two groups of dolphins have figured out how to use tools...
Common dolphins at surface

Did you know that dolphins have unique personalities?

We all have personalities, and between the work Christmas party and your family get-together, perhaps...
Leaping harbour porpoise

The power of harbour porpoise poo

We know we need to save the whale to save the world. Now we are...
Holly. Image: Miray Campbell

Meet Holly, she’s an incredible orca leader

Let me tell you the story of an awe-inspiring orca with a fascinating family story...

Lacking Dollars for Dolphins

Currently, marine mammal standing teams along the Atlantic seaboard are being kept busy by an unusually high rate of dolphin strandings. The standings have prompted federal officials to declare an Unusual Mortality Event (“UME”) for dolphins. As the federal government begins investigating this UME, they have suggested an early suspect might be morbillivirus, an air-borne illness that affects marine mammals. This would not be the first time morbillivirus struck dolphins hard. In 1987, dolphin mortalities also spiked dramatically. Dolphins were hit so hard in fact that by the end of the 1987-88 UME 742 dolphins were confirmed dead.

However, this UME has an added wrinkle for standing responders. The zeroing out of funds for the US Government funded John H. Prescott Grant has limited the ability of some stranding and rehab facilities to effectively respond to these events. While limited funding for stranding response is bad enough, the disservice done to marine mammals by the elimination of Prescott funds is worse than many may realize.

This past June, the Riverhead of Long Island, NY responded to a stranding of a Risso’s dolphin, “Roxanne” who was dehydrated and had stomach ulcers. No one wanted her to see her euthanized as she seemed just to need some interim care. Two months later, and after her daily intake of 75lbs of squid, she is weighing in at over 700 lbs and waiting to be released back to the wild.  However, the Foundation does not have the $35,000 needed to hire the vessels and cranes for her to be transported back to sea.

Marine mammals are aesthetic treasures for ocean lovers to appreciate and preserve. Yet their value runs deeper, because of their service as sentinel species, providing us with an idea about the health of an environment we still know so little about. Because of their long life histories, they teach us about trends in ocean pollution, and water quality that the most sophisticated pieces of oceanographic equipment might miss. Rather than being able to learn and hopefully better respond to mass strandings in the future, elimination of Prescott dollars means that we may not learn from history, instead being doomed to repeat it in the future.

While everyone at WDC works diligently day in and day out to support conservation of whales, dolphins, and porpoises, there is always more that can be done, and there are ways you can help. Prescott funding is controlled by Congress, so if you are concerned about marine mammal organizations not being able to respond to and learn from future UMEs, or save the animals they respond to, contact your congressman and let them know that Prescott funds are important for ocean conservation. Let them know that investing in marine mammal research benefits overall ocean health, as well as human health. Let them know that investing in marine mammal research and conservation is investing in a better future for all of us.  

About George Berry

George is a member of WDC's Communications team and website coordinator.