Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder serves as the primary responder for sick, injured, and deceased whales & dolphins throughout 10,000 square miles of marine habitat in the Florida Keys. The goal of our stranding investigations program is to respond to stranded animals, providing emergency care for live animals and investigating the cause of strandings for deceased animals. In any scenario, our team of trained responders can provide timely care to whales & dolphins in need.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Fisheries Division defines a stranding as a whale, dolphin, or porpoise that is found dead, either on the beach or floating in the water, or alive on the beach and unable to return to the water. Live-stranded animals typically need help to return to their natural habitat.
Standings can be classified by type (E.g. Single Animal, Mom/Calf Pair, or Mass Stranding) and by class (E.g. live animal, freshly dead, moderately decomposed, mummified).
Under authorization from NOAA Fisheries, DPMMR holds a Letter of Agreement that permits the response to stranded whales & dolphins. This agreement allows for rapid response to marine mammal emergencies and timely investigations of stranding events without violating the Marine Mammal Protect Act of 1972.
A Necropsy, or animal-autopsy, is a systematic post-mortem exam of an animal's corpse to determine the cause of death and presence of disease or injury. As first responders - it is important for us to conduct a necropsy on every deceased animal we encounter so that we can gain information and data on cause of death, life history, basic physiology, genetics, and human interactions. This data is then shared with the greater stranding network and, eventually the global scientific community and general public, so that we all have a better understanding of the threats animals in the wild are facing.
Our team of responders typically performs a field-necropsy to gain all of the samples, measurements, and examinations needed, but sometimes it is better suited to bring the carcass back to a closed lab for further examination. For these post-mortem examinations, a special laboratory is needed to prevent cross-contamination of our resident dolphins.
Sometimes the response team encounters animals that are suitable candidates for rehabilitation and eventual release back to the wild. When our partners at the National Marine Fisheries Service and the attending veterinarian make a recommendation for an animal to undergo rehabilitation, DPMMR will transport the animal to the nearest rehabilitation facility - typically several hours away. Our goal as a facility is to develop rehabilitation facilities in the Florida Keys to decrease the time between response and initial treatment, ultimately improving the odds for eventual release back into the ocean.