Ma­rine mam­mals and sea tur­tles are re­turn­ing to the Ch­e­sa­peake

The Dundalk Eagle - - REC COUNCIL NEWS -

Dur­ing the sum­mer months, ma­rine mam­mals and sea tur­tles are mak­ing their sea­sonal re­turn to the At­lantic coast, the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, and its trib­u­taries. The Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources re­quests peo­ple re­port any dis­tressed or de­ceased ma­rine mam­mals or sea tur­tles in Mary­land wa­ters to the Nat­u­ral Re­sources Po­lice hot­line any­time at 1-800628-9944.

Mary­land’s most com­mon vis­i­tors are bot­tlenose dol­phins and log­ger­head sea tur­tles, al­though more than 25 other ma­rine mam­mals and four species of sea tur­tles have been recorded in state wa­ters. While these ocean-dwelling crea­tures of­ten en­ter our wa­ter­ways and can sur­vive in brack­ish wa­ter for sev­eral days to weeks, they may be at risk.

In ad­di­tion to call­ing the hot­line, any­one who finds a stranded ma­rine mam­mal or sea tur­tle, alive or dead, should fol­low these steps if pos­si­ble:

Do not touch or ap­proach the animal or car­cass.

Record your lo­ca­tion us­ing lat­i­tude/lon­gi­tude, name of the body of wa­ter or street ad­dress, and/ or de­scrip­tion with land­marks.

Es­ti­mate and record the size, color, no­tice­able body parts, any vis­i­ble in­juries or signs of trauma, and any move­ments. Use an ob­ject such as a shoe, beach towel, or boat for scale to es­ti­mate the animal’s length.

Take cell phone pho­tos of the animal.

Re­main in the area at a safe dis­tance from the animal un­til strand­ing staff are able to reach you.

Due to cur­rent pre­cau­tions, it is im­por­tant to main­tain proper so­cial dis­tanc­ing from other on­look­ers and from strand­ing re­sponse staff.

Un­der COVID-19 safety pro­to­cols, the depart­ment’s Ma­rine Mam­mal and Sea Tur­tle Strand­ing pro­gram is still op­er­a­tional but has lim­ited and re­stricted re­sponse ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Staff are cur­rently only au­tho­rized to re­spond to “crit­i­cal” cases, which in­clude large whales, un­usual and/or high mor­tal­ity events, and hu­man in­ter­ac­tion cases such as net or fish­ing line en­tan­gle­ment. Staff are not au­tho­rized to re­spond for the sole pur­pose of car­cass re­moval or dis­posal.

The Ma­rine Mam­mal and Sea Tur­tle Strand­ing Re­sponse Pro­gram works co­op­er­a­tively with the Na­tional Aquar­ium in re­sponse to reports of ma­rine an­i­mals through­out Mary­land’s wa­ters and coast­lines.

Ma­rine mam­mals are specif­i­cally pro­tected by the fed­eral Ma­rine Mam­mal Pro­tec­tion Act. In ad­di­tion, sea tur­tles and whales are both pro­tected un­der the 1973 En­dan­gered Species Act. It is il­le­gal to ha­rass, hunt, cap­ture, or col­lect these ma­rine species, alive or dead, in­clud­ing any body parts or skele­tal re­mains. Vi­o­la­tors could face civil penal­ties up to $11,000, up to one year in pri­son, for­fei­ture of any ves­sel in­volved, and penal­ties for that ves­sel up to $25,000.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE NA­TIONAL PARK SER­VICE

Ma­rine mam­mals, like this sea ot­ter, are re­turn­ing to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and its trib­u­taries.

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