1. Evaluate marine mammal and sea turtle stranding data to help environmental managers identify trends;
2. Integrate stranding data with population and health assessment data to provide insight into environmental changes due to anthropogenic causes and climate change;
3. Conduct population monitoring of marine mammals and sea turtles through surveys, satellite tracking, and health assessment projects;
4. Support stranding response with the operation of the Specially Trained Animal Response Team (START) for out-of-habitat situations, unusual mortality events (UMEs), entanglements, and natural and manmade disasters, including oil spills, as well as provide marine mammal and sea turtle necropsies and supportive care for cold stunned sea turtles in New York; and
5. Engage the public about marine conservation and how their actions impact the environment, which includes having the public participate in beach clean ups and beach patrols for sick or cold stunned sea turtles.
Conservation means the wise use of the earth and its resources. . . for the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time
- Gifford Pinchot 1947
1. Data Research- To compile and evaluate stranding data in New York over the last two and half decades in order to: (i.) generate reports on occurrences and changes in strandings over the history of the program and relate those changes to environmental changes; (ii.) establish a best practices manual for satellite tagging on rehabilitated animals; and (iii.) identify future strategies to integrate stranding data and health assessment data.
2. Surveys and Health Assessments- To conduct surveys and health assessments on marine mammals and sea turtles. These data will be combined with stranding data to give a full representation of the population. We will develop a program that looks at both wild and stranded animals and attempts to understand the impacts of climate change.
Members of AMCS have recently conducted two research projects involving surveys on marine mammals and sea turtles in the mid-Atlantic region. We plan to submit a request for a research permit to perform sea turtle captures in the New York Bight and surrounding waters to conduct health assessments. The data from our land, sea, and aerial survey work will be used as baseline for future population assessments. By combining our surveys with tracking data, we also intend to work on correction factors needed for seal haul-out behavior.
3. Specially Trained Animal Response Team (START)- To continue to operate and support the START program and train our members in Incident Command System (ICS) and assist other stranding network participants faced with emergent care situations. Training members in HAZWOPER and oil spill response will be a significant goal of our program preparation.
4. Out of Habitat, Entanglements, and Disasters- To respond to dead marine mammals and sea turtles and conduct high-end necropsies on the animals with the most scientific value.
Team members from our organization have extensive experience dealing with out-of-habitat situations related to seals, whales and dolphins. Our team will continue to train and develop Incident Action Plans (IAP) for dealing with these unusual events building on prior lessons learned.
Our team members have responded to numerous entangled sea turtles, specifically the endangered leatherback sea turtle. The occurrence of entanglements in New York waters has dramatically increased in the past few years. Having a team able to respond to these unique situations is crucial in this changing environment.
As noted, oil spill response training will be incorporated into our team structure to ensure teams are better prepared for major events. Members of our team participated in the clean up efforts following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. We will be trained in accordance with the oil spill guidelines released by NOAA in December 2015 (NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-OPR-52). We intend to work closely with the Area Planning Committees and the Regional Response Team to incorporate marine mammal and sea turtle response into their programs. We would also like to build on our working relationship with the NYSDEC oil spill response program to facilitate a quick response when animals are encountered.
5. Necropsies- We will develop a stranding response necropsy manual to be used in major events.
Our standing protocol will be to conduct necropsies on site when possible and use each opportunity as a training exercise for larger events. Once our organization is notified of a carcass on the beach, we will assemble a team to assess the animal and collect basic data. If the animal is of high value or in good condition for necropsy, plans will be made to conduct a more extensive examination.
Our team has extensive experience responding to dead large whales on the beach and will work with local officials and NOAA to secure the animals and conduct forensic investigations on these animals.
6. Public Outreach- To conduct outreach lectures to the public, in schools, and for local officials about what to do in the event of a marine mammal or sea turtle encounter. We will also educate the public about the changes in the environment and how they can help.