Monitoring Ocean Sentinels
Marine mammal stranding networks provide a first line of detection for marine animal and ocean health concerns, offering continuous surveillance for emerging, infectious, and zoonotic diseases in marine mammals, in areas frequented by the general (and unsuspecting) public, as well as for anthropogenic causes of marine mammal morbidity and mortality. These include fishery takes, ship strikes, shootings, entanglements in marine debris, the bioaccumulation of persistent toxic contaminants, the potential effects of noise (naval sonar), and interactions with wave and wind energy devices. Disease trends can point to large scale disruptions in the marine environment, including shifting prey resources and harmful algal blooms.
The Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network (OMMSN) is a collaborative organization comprised of partners from Oregon universities, state and federal agencies, and citizen volunteers. It is coordinated by Jim Rice with the Marine Mammal Institute of Oregon State University.
The objectives of OMMSN are:
to promote the scientific investigation of marine mammal stranding events (primarily through post-mortem investigations);
to provide for the welfare of live stranded animals (by mitigating harassment takes by people and disentangling whales and pinnipeds from marine debris and fishery gear);
to advance public education about marine mammal strandings;
and to report our findings to NOAA Fisheries for inclusion in the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program national database.
Our work keeps us vigilant about changes in the health and challenges to the welfare of marine mammals along the Oregon coast, providing a unique window into the state of the natural world.