2013-03-21 / Letters to the Editor

Don’t approach marine mammals

I’m writing in response to the cover photo of the children and harp seal that was printed on March 14. Seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In accordance with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service guidelines, people should keep a safe, respectful distance of at least 50 yards from them and other marine mammals that they encounter.

Close proximity to marine mammals can put both the animal and person at risk. It’s difficult to predict how a wild animal is going to respond, especially in a stressful situation. Here are some tips to follow when you encounter a marine mammal or sea turtle on local beaches:

• Call Mystic Aquarium’s 24- hour stranding hotline at 860-572- 5955, ext. 107. Mystic Aquarium’s coverage area includes Rhode Island, Connecticut and Fishers Island, N.Y.

• Do not touch, disturb, feed or otherwise harass the animal. Do not pour water on a seal, cover it or attempt to move it to the water. It is normal for seals to come ashore to rest.

• Give the animal plenty of space. Close proximity can stress the animal and may cause it to act aggressively.

• Keep pets away from the stranded animal. Not only can they bite and cause injury to the stranded animal, but they may be injured by it. Diseases can also be transmitted between stranded animals and pets.

• Be observant. Take note of any obvious signs of injury, overall body condition, identification tags, the presence of other animals, the sea state and recognizable landmarks that will make it possible to locate the animal.

Janelle Schuh
Stranding coordinator
Mystic Aquarium

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