Fish & Wildlife Health Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Cooperative Oxford Laboratory, Oxford, MD, USA
In 1990 the Maryland Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Network was established and continues to be administered jointly by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fish & Wildlife Health Program (FWHP) and the National Aquarium in Baltimore Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP). FWHP personnel respond to all dead stranded animals in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coastline. They also assist with live strandings as requested by MARP.
The FWHP started with one person and no funding. Funding from the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program has enabled the FWHP to 1) enhance the quality, quantity, reporting, and sharing of Level A, B and C data collected from stranded marine mammals, including a complete diagnostic screening on stranded animals; and 2) enhance outreach and education by developing materials and messages for both the network and the general public regarding stranding response and rehabilitation. Samples collected from freshly dead animals include tissues for contaminants, microbiology, histopathology, virology, genetics, and parasitology. Additionally, program staff conduct presentations and workshops at a variety of veterinary colleges as well as national and international veterinary training programs.
Hundreds of strandings have been documented and examinations performed on a wide variety of species since the beginning of the program. Existence of marine threatened and endangered species was not previously known in Maryland and any stranding was considered a rare event. With consistent response, recent funding, and dedicated staff, the FWHP is now able to summarize nineteen years of efforts both spatially and temporally. Future efforts of the FWHP will include data analyses for human interaction determination in both marine mammals and sea turtles. Our goal is to publish a summary for state management use that will provide a greater understanding of the causes of Maryland strandings as well as promote public awareness.