Seacoast Science Center at helm of marine mammal rescue team
Now the nonprofit organization will lead New Hampshire’s efforts with the start of the first Marine Mammal Rescue Team dedicated to and located in the state.
The Seacoast Science Center was granted authorization by the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to lead New Hampshire’s marine mammal rescue effort in November.
People who see a marine mammal on the beach can call the hotline and leave a message detailing what they are seeing and where. Someone with the MMRT will get right back to that individual to get more specific information and then dispatch staff or volunteers based on the situation.
“They might be healthy, but need time to rest. Then we will have a volunteer stay there, kind of monitor the situation and keep people away, post some signs,” Stokes said.
Seals are by far the number one marine mammal N.H. beachgoers are likely to encounter.
The Center’s first call through the hotline this year was for a live hooded seal spotted on the northern end of Hampton Beach, which eventually made its way back to sea on its own.
The Center is embarking on an awareness and education campaign about the new MMRT and what beachgoers should do if they spot a marine mammal on the beach.
“It’s been shocking to me the last few years … how many people live on the Seacoast, have lived there forever, and don’t realize that it’s completely normal for a seal to come out and rest on the beach,” Stokes said.
“Hampton typically sees the highest number of animals. Second to that is Rye, which is actually a very close second and we have already gotten approval from both of them (the towns), as well as New Castle,” Stokes said.
Stokes said the SSC seemed like the perfect organization to take up the effort in New Hampshire, although funding is a bit of a concern.
They do have some startup funding and have applied for at least two grants. The estimated cost to run the program annually, not including any rehabilitation or necropsies, is about $70,000.
Seals are all protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and it is illegal to disturb or harass them. If someone spots a seal on the beach they are encouraged to keep back at least 150 feet and call the hotline.
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