Saturday, January 7, 2012

What is PTMSC's Marine Mammal Stranding Network?

Have you ever wondered what PTMSC’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network does?
Well, today is your lucky day!!

PTMSC’S Stranding Network is called the East Jefferson County Marine Mammal Stranding Network (EJCMMSN). The EJCMMSN is authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service to investigate live and dead stranded marine mammals, collect scientific data, and educate the public about issues involving marine mammals and human interaction.

Local citizens and visitors to east Jefferson county coast call the EJCMMSN Hotline if they have found a stranded marine mammal. We check the hotline messages frequently throughout the day and always return the call. If appropriate we send a responder to investigate the sighting. The majority of our responders are local volunteers (which could be you!).

Our responders are trained to collect data that includes the animal’s species, sex, health/body condition, and signs of human interaction. This information is then entered into a database, reported to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and used by scientific researchers for a variety of studies. Occasionally fresh dead carcasses or parts are collected for necropsy or sample collection. If the animal is injured or tangled in fishing gear measures are taken to make sure the animal gets the help it needs.

So what exactly is a marine mammal stranding anyway? Check out this spiffy table explaining what normal behavior is and what qualifies as a marine mammal stranding!

Why do marine mammals strand in the first place? Some strand because of harassment or injuries caused by humans, such as entanglement in fishing gear or marine debris, ingestion of plastics, gunshot wounds, or boatstrikes. Many animals strand due to injuries caused by natural predators or illness/disease. Natural or anthropogenic (human-caused) toxins in the environment can cause strandings. Sometimes young animals who have been prematurely separated from their mothers or who are recently weaned strand because they have not been successful in finding food. Environmental and Oceanographic events such as El Nino cause changes in distribution and abundance of prey and can lead to malnourishment and stranding.

Educating the public is also a part of what the EJCMMSN does. We are currently working on updating the EJCMMSN section of PTMSC’S website, publishing a brochure, and training more volunteers.

If you have any additional questions about our Stranding Network, contact Jen at

Are you interested in becoming an EJCMMSN volunteer? Contact Jean Walat at

Remember; if you ever find a stranded marine mammal please call our hotline ASAP at 360 385-5582 ext.103
Jen Stevens
Marine Mammal Citizen Science Assistant