Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program: Program Development Plan
NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-OPIY-94-2
Hundreds of marine mammals are stranded each year on the bleaches of the United States. Apparently most of these are animals that die at sea and then are carried onshore by winds and currents. In the contiguous United Sates most of the stranded cetaceans are bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus; pygmy sperm whales, Kogia breviceps; harbor porpoises, Phocoena phocoena; and common dolphins, Delphinus delphis. Stranded pinnipeds consist mostly of California sea lions, Zalophus californiarnus; harbor seals, Phoca vitulina; and northern elephant seals, Mirounga angustirostris (Wilkinson, 1991). NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has established a marine mammal stranding network in each coastal region. The network consists of volunteers who respond to strandings of both dead and live animals to gather basic biological information and, in the case of live strandings, to attempt to rehabilitate and return the animals to the sea. At a minimum, the stranding network has been required to obtain information on location of stranding, species, length, condition, and sex of the stranded animals. This data is contributing to the development of a baseline of information for detecting unusual mortality events. To coordinate stranding network activities and ensure consistency among the Regions, a National Marine Mammal Stranding Network Coordinator has been appointed within the Office of Protected Resources.