Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Project Leader: Dr. Ruth Carmichael, Stranding Coordinator Mackenzie Russell, Assistant Stranding Coordinator Merri Collins, Staff Veterinarian Alissa Deming
The Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network (ALMMSN) is a cooperative regional stranding network partner, which works with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service to respond to dolphin and whale strandings in Alabama. ALMMSN also works closely with the US Fish & Wildlife Service to respond to manatee strandings in Alabama and Mississippi as well as provide aid to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in the Florida panhandle when needed. Our network is a nonprofit organization currently funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to establish and enhance a regional stranding collaboration among the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Manatee Sighting Network, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and other local regional partners.
Report Marine Mammal Strandings
For dolphin and whale strandings (live or carcasses) call 1-877- WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343)
For manatee strandings (live or carcasses) call 1-866- 493-5803
Report manatee sightings to DISL’s Manatee Sighting Network at manatee.disl.org
- Enhance stranding reporting and response
- Collect consistent, high quality stranding and Level A data
- Provide long-term data sharing, storage and retrieval capacity
- Expand community awareness and public education
Cetacean and Manatee FAQs
What should I do if I encounter a live marine mammal in the wild?
If you spot a live marine mammal in the wild, you should remain a safe and legal distance from the animal (at least 50 yards away from dolphins & manatees and 100 yards away from whales). Time spent observing marine mammals should be kept brief to minimize stress to the animals. If you are approached by an animal, shift your engine to neutral and allow the animal to pass. NEVER attempt to feed, water, pet or interact with a wild marine mammal.
What should I do if I encounter a live marine mammal stranded on the beach?
If you spot a live stranded marine mammal, there are several guidelines that you should follow.
- The first and most important guideline is to NEVER push the animal back into the water! Marine mammals typically strand due to sickness or injury.
- Pushing an animal back to sea increases stress levels, places the animal in additional danger from predators and could seriously injure the animal or yourself.
- Keep unnecessary people, pets and noise away from the animal.
- Do not leave the animal, it may not be able to keep itself upright.
- Try not to excessively touch the animal.
- Relieve pressure on fins and lungs by digging holes underneath them and filling with water.
- Provide shade or repel wind to keep animal warm/cool.
- Keep blowhole free of obstruction
- Be careful around the mouth and tail area
- Do NOT touch the melon (bulbous region just anterior to the blowhole).
- Stay with the animal until expert help arrives.
What should I do if I encounter a dead marine mammal?
If you spot a dead marine mammal in the wild, call the Stranding Hotline at 1-877-WHALE-HELP to report the carcass to your local stranding network.
Why do marine mammals strand?
It is usually difficult to find a definitive reason why animals strand, but the most common identified causes of strandings include:
- Human-related causes (boat strikes, entanglements, ingestion of trash or debris.
- exposure (such as harmful algal blooms)
- Trauma from non-human threats
How many strandings does ALMMSN respond to annually?
Stranding numbers can vary greatly by year and ALMMSN typically responds to 20-40 cetacean and 1-6 manatee strandings each year.
What species strand most frequently?
In Alabama, bottlenose dolphins strand more frequently than any other species. Occasional manatees, offshore dolphins and small whales also strand in AL waters.
What is a UME?
A UME is an Unusual Mortality Event, and is defined under the Marine Mammal Protection Act as, “a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response.” For more information about marine mammal UMEs, click here. To learn more about the Cetacean UME in the Northern Gulf of Mexico (2010-2015), click here.
Are the most recent dolphin deaths a direct result of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill?
The current investigation of stranded cetaceans following the DWHOS is ongoing. For the most up to date information and publications related to the Cetacean UME in the Northern Gulf of Mexico (2010-2015), click here.
Why study stranded marine mammals?
We obtain valuable information from live and dead stranded marine mammals. Marine mammals are indicator species and help to shed light on the health of the ecosystems in which they live. Through sample collection and analysis, we can learn about an array of topics including population dynamics, individual and group health, possible ecosystem contaminations, prey and predator relationships, physiology, and countless other areas of research. Because Alabama’s marine mammal populations are historically understudied, it is critical for us to gather as much information about the populations as possible.
Do manatees use our local waterways?
Yes! Manatees migrate to Alabama and the norther Gulf of Mexico coast during the spring and summer months to feed, mate and give birth to young. For more information about manatees in Alabama waters, please visit out sister network, Manatee Sighting Network at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
Opened in 2015, the Marine Mammal Research Center (MMRC) is a state-of-the-art necropsy facility and clean laboratory that houses ALMMSN. The MMRC Necropsy Laboratory features walk-in cold storage, specialized ventilation, heavy-duty lifting mechanisms and custom-built necropsy tables.
ALMMSN accepts 1-2 interns during peak stranding season every spring (February-May). If you are interested in becoming an intern, please send a copy of your resume/CV, cover letter, and a list of 3 references to ALMMSN@disl.org.
Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Dauphin Island Sea Lab
101 Bienville Blvd.
Dauphin Island, AL 36528
251-861- 2141 x7557
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