IMMS talks stranding season
First responders and local law enforcement took a walk on the wild side today at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.
The dolphins at IMMS put on quite the show, thrilling the crowd, but it isn’t always fun and games here at the Gulfport research facility, especially as we head into late February, also known as stranding season for area marine life.
You may be surprised to learn that South Mississippi’s first responders, including local firefighters are often on the front lines. Pascagoula Fire Chief Hyler Krebs said, “A lot of people don’t know exactly who to call when they do find one of these animals, so they reach out to the local agencies, like the Pascagoula Fire Department, or any fire department, and the police department, and we have the knowledge now that they’ve trained us to go pick them up.”
And that’s just what this annual gathering is all about: better equipping the eight coastal agencies that answer the call to aid stranded, injured, and even dead marine animals. IMMS President and Executive Director Dr. Moby Solangi said, “All of us together on the Gulf coast are working together, so once a year we get together to make sure since the stranding season is coming to see what we should do and what we shouldn’t do.”
Many at Thursday’s meeting are literal life lines for stranded and injured marine life, many of which end up at IMMS to be studied, rehabbed, and to gather important information. “Last year, due to the Bonnet Carre Spillway, we had the largest number of dolphin deaths in history. We had over 155 dolphins. We had over 200 turtles. It’s concerning. We want to make sure – we had other fishery losses, oysters, shrimp, blue crab, and our tourism suffered. It is important we use these as a barometer, and then we can predict what we can expect later on,” said Dr. Solangi.
While these first responders are often on the front lines, you don’t necessarily have to wear a badge or a gun to pitch in. Sea Turtle Standing Coordinator Dr. Melissa Cook said, “Take photos of the animal. Get the location, because without knowing exactly where to go, GPS coordinates are really very helpful.”
If you happen to spot an injured, stranded, or even dead sea turtle, dolphin, or other form of marine life you can call IMMS at 228-896-9182 or NOAA at 228-369-4796.