2010-11-26 / Community

Marine First Responder Workshop Set For November 20

A first responder workshop was presented by the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, which operates the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program. The workshop was held in the Meditation Room of Peninsula Center for Extended Care and Rehabilitation on Saturday, November 20. The orientation program was initiated by Jeanne DuPont of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance and conducted by two of the Foundation’s biologists, Robert DiGiovanni and Gretchen Kowalik.

The workshop was attended by 15 local residents with an interest in learning the proper procedures as a first responder. A first responder is anyone who comes upon a marine mammal or turtle on the local (or any New York State beach) and reports the find. Both the state and federal governments have laws protecting marine mammals and sea turtles and it is unlawful for anyone to harass or otherwise disturb a stranded animal when found. Through the use of photos, charts and demonstrations the 15 participants learned a great deal about the responsibilities of anyone coming upon a stranded marine mammal or sea turtle.

In essence the first responder program is geared to find and rescue marine mammals and sea turtles that have, for one reason or another, become stranded on the beach. The animal is then brought back to the Foundation’s headquarters located at the Atlantis Marine World Aquarium in Riverhead, LI. Here it is cared for, rehabilitated and ultimately released if not permanently injured. It was stressed that not all such animals found on the beach may be injured or ill – a determination which is ultimately made by the biologists and experts of the RFMRP.

The first responder’s responsibilities include contacting the Foundation giving location, identification of species, whether the animal appears ill or injured, and attempting to control (as diplomatically as possible) any bystanders who may be determined as harassing or disturbing the animal; this is accomplished by explaining the reasons for not interfering or otherwise bothering the animal. A bystander, without realizing it, may place him/herself in danger if he/she gets too close to the animal. A seal has extremely sharp teeth, a dolphin’s flukes are quite powerful and a bite by a sea turtle’s beak may require more than a bandaid.

For more information on the Foundation’s program and operations call 631- 369-9840 or go to wwww.riverhead foundation.org. For information on the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance call 718- 327-5919 or go to www.rwalliance.org.

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