SHREWSBURY RIVER DOLPHIN RESCUE ATTEMPT 11/08/2000 1/4
EDITORS: There will be an onsite press contact, Teri Frady (508.806.9485-pager). Owing to the delicate nature of this attempt, the public will not be allowed to get very close to the team. We will do our best to accommodate access for the press, but be advised that it is unlikely reporters and crews will be able to get next to the team as they work.
THE NATIONAL MARINE MAMMAL STRANDING NETWORK IN ACTION
The NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program has legal authorities and responsibilities for coordinating responses to stranded marine mammals. NOAA Fisheries is a 129-year-old federal agency responsible for research and management programs involving our living marine resources.
The agency manages a nationwide network of specially authorized and trained marine mammal event responders, many of whom are volunteers. For every federal dollar spent on the network, it has been estimated that the network receives two to three dollars in in-kind services necessary for marine mammal stranding responses. Each responding event is unique, requiring the coordinator to assemble a team with the needed expertise, sometimes reaching across the country for a person with unique skills.
The agency maintains agreements with non-profit organizations for responding to and caring for stranded mammals and sea turtles. In this event, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, NJ and the National Aquarium in Baltimore are assisting.
These institutions in turn assist the agency in its efforts to find and train qualified volunteers to help when stranding events occur. This way, top researchers in marine mammal biology, students developing or becoming interested in a marine science career, mariners such as fishermen and boaters, and other citizens become part of a the largely volunteer-dependent effort to respond to mammal strandings. In this event, we have been assisted by numerous volunteer sighters from the MMSC, researchers from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, the Civil Air Patrol and Environmental Air Force. The capture boat used to encircle the pair will be skippered by commercial fisherman Larry Fulford.
The Network is also relies on the ongoing participation of other governmental agencies at all levels. Today's attempt will involve the U.S. Coast Guard, the New Jersey Marine Patrol, and the local police departments of Monmouth Beach, Long Branch, and Sea Bright.
Goal: To rescue what appears to be an out of habitat mother and calf pair of Western Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, evaluate their physical condition, determine whether to release them in more appropriate habitat or take them to a rehabilitation facility, and then do so.
Risks: Wild dolphins suffer significant stress during capture attempts, even when the capture crew is quite experienced. In particular, youngsters are quite fragile out of the water and may not survive relocation attempts of this kind.
Compelling circumstances: These dolphins appear to be an actively reproductive female and new addition to a stock that lost an estimated one-half of its population in a massive die-off in the late 1980s. Therefore, they are quite valuable to stabilizing the population.
Although it is not unusual for bottlenose dolphins to enter high saline portions of rivers to feed, this pair has persisted as food has dwindled and conditions become harsher. Much of this population has already moved to warmer waters. As conditions deteriorate, the pair will likely do so as well, if not moved to more favorable conditions soon.
Early morning: Marine Mammal Stranding Center Team begins attempt to locate and stay with pair
7-9 AM Staging; State Police Substation, Covesail Marina
8:0 AM Press briefing, Covesail Marina
9:00 AM Boats ready to depart for rescue when animals are located
Likely order of events thereafter:
A. Animals captured, transferred to suitable site for evaluation
B. Samples taken to determine condition (dehydration, obvious injury or debilitation, blood samples if possible)
C. Decision made about transport to rehab or transport to site for release
Principals will be available to talk to press after the event, TBA, contact Frady for progress reports.
The onsite overall coordinator is NOAA Corps Officer Lt. Commander Gregg LaMontagne, the acting stranding network coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Northeast Region.
Onsite press contact is Teri Frady [pager: 508.806.9485], communications chief for NOAA Fisheries in the Northeast Region.
The location attempt will be headed by Robert Schoelkopf, the local Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator and director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine. This team will also standby to assist.
The capture attempt is headed by Larry Hansen, one of the country's most experienced dolphin rescue experts and a NOAA Fisheries volunteer.
NOAA Fisheries rescue veterinarian Forrest Townsend will be in charge of medical decisions about the pair onsite.
If the dolphins need further medical attention, they will be transported to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, one of the nation's top mammal rehabilitation facilities, where NAIB veterinarian Brent Whittaker and handler David Schofield will assume responsibility for their care. A decision about later release will be made by NOAA Fisheries. Whittaker and Schofield will also be part of the capture team.
Vessels used on the water today are:
Locator Boat MMSC Zodiac 15 ft
Capture Boat: NOAA R/V Monsoon 26 ft
Chase Boat 1 NOAA Fisheries NEFSC Whaler 19 ft
Chase Boat 2 NOAA Fisheries NEFSC boat Harvey 20 ft
Chase Boat 3 NJ Marine Patrol boat 20 ft
Processor Boat NJ Marine Patrol boat 24 ft
Safety Vessel USCG Sandy Hook
Offshore Tracking USCG Sandy Hook
Team Member Affiliations/expertise 4/4
Larry Fulford Commercial fisherman, will skipper the capture boat
Forrest Townsend Rescue veterinarian
Don McMillian Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Sandy Hook, NJ, boat skipper
Patrick Martone Boat handler
Larry Hansen Capture team leader, NOAA Fisheries volunteer
John Rosendale Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Sandy Hook, NJ, boat skipper
Aleta Hohn Southeast Fisheries Science Center, will skipper net
Blair Mase Southeast Region stranding coordinator
Andrew Draxler Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Sandy Hook, NJ, chemist, diver
Linda Arlen Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Sandy Hook, NJ, physical scientist, diver
Christina Lockyer NOAA Fisheries volunteer, mammal handler
Erin Meagher NOAA Fisheries volunteer, mammal handler
Lt. Cmdr Gregg LaMontagne NER Marine Mammal Stranding Network Coordinator
Scott Doyle NOAA Fisheries Enforcement, site security/airlift
Teri Frady NER Communications
Teri Rowles NOAA Fisheries Protected Resources headquarters
Janet Whaley National Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator, veterinarian
NOAA National Ocean Service
Eric Zolman Mammal handler/rescuer
Marine Mammal Stranding Center (Brigantine)
Robert Schoelkopf NJ Marine Mammal Stranding Network Coordinator, lead locator
Tony Potous Mammal handler
Alexa Bracht Mammal handler
National Aquarium in Baltimore
David Schofield Mammal handler
Brent Whittaker Veterinarian
Lee Caughron Videographer
University of North Carolina
Bill McClellan Mammal handler
NJ Marine Patrol
Sgt. Frank Ofner Site security/Chase & Process boats
Chief McConville Monmouth Beach Police site security
Sea Bright Police EMS
Richard Katch Long Branch Police EMT
Ed Lamb Chief Warrant Officer