Since 1991, the National Aquarium Animal Rescue Program has been responsible for responding to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles along the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia) Peninsula, primarily along the nearly 7,000 miles of Maryland coast.
All species of marine mammals are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, and all seven species of sea turtles are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
The National Aquarium is federally permitted by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to respond to marine mammal and sea turtle strandings.
Animal Rescue has successfully rescued, treated, and returned over 100 animals to their natural habitats, including: harbor, gray, harp, and hooded seals; Kemp’s ridley, green, and loggerhead sea turtles; rough-toothed dolphins; a harbor porpoise; a pygmy sperm whale; and a manatee.
Every animal has a story, and it is our responsibility to tell the story of each animal. Many of the animals that are admitted for rehabilitation have been impacted by humans, and are ambassadors of ocean health. The stories of the animals are extraordinary, and the triumph of returning a healthy animal to the wild is the reason that Animal Rescue volunteers have dedicated tens of thousands of hours since Animal Rescue’s inception.
The National Aquarium Animal Rescue Program is a member of the Northeast Stranding Network (NERS) through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Aquarium is one facility among a network of nationally recognized facilities that work cooperatively to respond to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles.
Animal Rescue works directly with NOAA, USFWS, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and regional and national stranding partners to respond to stranded animals and collect data used to better understand aquatic animals that are still very much a mystery to modern science.
While we enjoy the satisfaction of returning a healthy animal to its natural habitat, our larger success is determined by our ability to convey each animal’s story to the public, to help our communities understand the global implications of their day-to-day actions, and to educate them to make thoughtful choices.
Animal Rescue Expert Update
In early January, we received photo confirmation of the first seal sighting along the Maryland coast!
Every winter, migrating seals make their way back to our shores. Seals are semi-aquatic, which means they like to spend part of their time in the water and part of their time on land. During migration, seals will typically spend a couple of days swimming south, occasionally hauling out on beaches, rocks or docks to rest.
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