Pacific Islands Marine Mammal Response
The Pacific Islands Regional Office and Science Center, along with various partners, coordinates emergency responses to sick, injured, distressed, or dead marine mammals in the main Hawaiian Islands, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
About the Marine Mammal Response Network
The Pacific Islands Region Marine Mammal Response Network is a group of government agencies and non-government organizations that respond to marine mammal strandings in the main Hawaiian Islands, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The network is part of the National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. Through a regional coordinator, NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO) coordinates and authorizes response activities, and provides personnel training and other support. Approximately 20-30 cetacean strandings are reported in the region in an average year. PIRO, along with various partners, responds to these strandings to render care when possible or to humanely euthanize sick or injured animals to reduce their suffering when recovery or rehabilitation is not feasible, and to retrieve carcasses of deceased animals. When marine mammal carcasses are retrieved, we try, whenever possible, to determine cause of death and gather other important information.
All marine mammals (live, dead, and body parts) are protected by the MMPA. To determine the cause of stranding deaths, authorized network members conduct post-mortem exams, which include a necropsy (animal autopsy) and tissue sampling and analysis. In addition to helping to determine the cause of death, conducting a necropsy can provide a essential information about Hawaiʻi’s cetacean populations, local ecosystem health, and occurrence of common and unusual diseases that may affect other marine mammals or other species. Cause of death investigations can also help identify signs of human interaction, such as foreign body ingestion, entanglement, acoustic impacts, and intentional killings.
We make every effort to engage local community members, including cultural practitioners, in marine mammal stranding responses, whenever possible. We invite community participation to help us be culturally respectful to the individual animal and to the community where the stranding occurs. Our goal is to continue to expand this effort, while remaining in compliance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Priority activities coordinated by the Pacific Islands Region Marine Mammal Response Network include responding to:
- Cetacean strandings and entanglements, including providing assistance with and logistical support of large entangled whales.
- Monk seal haulouts and seal birthing events, including providing pup monitoring and emergency stranding response.
- Whales struck by vessels.
- Oil spills and unusual mortality events of marine mammals.
We also provide outreach and education about cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and the Hawaiian monk seals to various audiences and user groups.
By working communities, stakeholders, and partner agencies, we strive to further develop our network and build capacity to better respond to marine animals in the main Hawaiian Islands, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
How to Report a Stranding
If you encounter a stranded marine mammal, please call the NOAA Marine Wildlife Hotline: (888) 256-9840. It is helpful if you can remain on the scene to provide information to the NOAA response team while they are on the way and when they arrive, but your safety is always a priority. Always maintain a safe distance from the stranded animal and take precautions that are necessary to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.
If you see a sick, injured, stranded, or dead marine mammal or sea turtle, immediately contact your local stranding network.
Important - All marine mammal parts are protected by federal law and should not be removed from the carcass unless authorized. It is important that the remains of a dead marine mammal are untouched as there may be an ongoing investigation to determine the cause of death.
- 2017 National Report of Marine Mammal Strandings in the United States
- Frequent Questions - Unusual Mortality Events
- Pacific Islands Volunteering Opportunities
- Marine Mammal Strandings in Hawaiʻi Overview and Frequently Asked Questions
- Report a Stranded or Injured Marine Animal