DEC Urges New Yorkers To Avoid Close Encounters With Marine Mammals - The Fisherman

DEC Urges New Yorkers To Avoid Close Encounters With Marine Mammals

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos reminded New Yorkers along coastal shores to always keep a safe distance from marine mammals and resist the urge to intervene when an animal comes ashore. Marine mammals, which include whales, dolphins, porpoises, and seals, are protected by federal and state laws to ensure they are not harmed and to keep people at a safe distance.

“New York’s marine waters provide vital nursery and foraging grounds for whales, dolphins, and seals that migrate across the Atlantic Coast,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Observing these animals in the wild can be an exciting and unforgettable experience. However, DEC urges New Yorkers to keep their distance and refrain from attempting to intervene during stranding events. Stranded animals will need professional medical care and the best way to help is to immediately contact the Stranding Hotline.”

The public can best help injured or distressed marine mammals by reporting sightings immediately to the New York Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline at (631) 369-9829 so that trained responders can properly assess and care for these animals.

Atlantic Marine Conservation Society Executive Director Rob DiGiovanni said, “Marine mammals and sea turtles have been observed in the New York Bight more frequently in recent years. Community members are instrumental in the work that we do, especially in reporting sick, injured or deceased animals. Our mission is to share the lessons learned from marine mammal and sea turtle stranding events and we are available to present safe wildlife viewing and response protocols for our community partners. It’s most important to remember to first call the Stranding Hotline so that trained responders can help assist animals when they’re in a stressed and vulnerable situation.”

New York Marine Rescue Center Program Director Maxine Montello said, “We truly understand that people have the best intentions when trying to help these charismatic marine animals. However, most of these animals are extremely compromised and an inexperienced person could cause more damage to the animal. We encourage people to help by immediately calling the New York Stranding Hotline to report all sightings or standings of marine mammals and sea turtles.”

Whales and Dolphins

New York’s marine waters are visited by many species of whales and dolphins. The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) administered by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) requires people to maintain a safe and legal distance from marine mammals on water and land. Check NOAA’s Marine Life Viewing Guidelines for specific viewing distance laws and regulations for various marine mammal species. It is illegal to touch, feed, disturb, or harass marine mammal species, including whales and dolphins. A violation of the MMPA may result in up to one year of jail time and/or fines up to $20,000. If a distressed animal or carcass washes ashore, do not attempt to intervene or touch the animal. Instead, immediately call the 24-hour New York Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline at (631) 369-9829 to report the animal and its location.

While attempts by the public to push animals back toward the water may be well-intended, there are serious safety concerns for both the animals and the people who intervene. Entering the water with live distressed animals, and even large carcasses, is extremely hazardous. Unpredictable movement by the animal, the force of the ocean surf, and harsh weather conditions can lead to serious human injury or death. The physical effort of pushing, rolling, or dragging the animal by the tail puts additional strain on their bodies and can cause further injury or delay professional care. To provide the best assistance possible for the animal, contact the Stranding Hotline and a trained responder will guide callers through possible next steps. However, it’s important to remember that in the majority of cases, simply remaining at the site until help arrives is the only action you may take.

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