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Coastal Residents and Visitors Urged to Report Stranded Marine Life

Marine Mammals, Sea Turtles Protected by Law

Photo of stranded humpback whale.

Maryland’s tidal waters are visited by a variety of aquatic wildlife. Unfortunately, some of these animals find themselves stranded along the state’s shoreline, particularly between May and October.

Since 1990, Maryland’s Stranding Response Program has documented strandings of 25 species of marine mammals and four species of sea turtles. On average, 40 to 70 protected marine animals are found each year in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries as well as the Atlantic coast.

Anyone who comes along a stranded marine mammal or sea turtle should call the Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline at 800-628-9944.The Maryland Department of Natural Resources works in collaboration with the National Park Service and other federal, state and local agencies to respond to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles. 

“While finding one of these species can certainly be a unique experience, it is important to remember that all of these animals are protected by law and – whether alive or dead – should be observed from a healthy distance,” Stranding Response Program Coordinator Amanda Weschler said. “And while finding a carcass isn’t pleasant for anyone, the remains can be invaluable for researchers and scientists.”

Once biologists find and collect the specimen, staff gather important data, which is reported to the federal government and helps inform policies on the conservation and protection of these marine animals.hotlin

All marine mammals — dolphins, manatees, porpoises, seals and whales — are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits the interaction, feeding and harassment of live animals, as well as interaction and collection of parts from dead, stranded animals. Additionally, sea turtles, whales and manatees are listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Violating these laws can result in fines, imprisonment and confiscation of property.


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