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Stranding updates

Bottlenose dolphins made their appearance back in Delaware In March, with the first sighting on March 15th of a live dolphin swimming in a marina off of Rehoboth Bay. Although this species historically made their first arrival in April, heading back to Delaware from the Carolinas and points south, we have been noting their return in February for the past 10 years.

The first stranding of 2023 was a Common dolphin, a species that usually shows up between November through March. It stranded at Kitt’s Hummock, on the Delaware Bay with signs of fisheries interaction. This dolphin was one of several that showed signs of stranding due to fisheries impacts. We had an uptick in common dolphin strandings this year, with 5 of this species stranding. 

MERR also responded to 27 sea turtle strandings, distributed between loggerheads and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. Of these, one loggerhead and one Kemp’s ridley stranded live, and were rescued and rehabilitated. 

MERR has had another busy year responding to calls regarding marine life spotted along the shores of Delaware. In 2023 to date, MERR’s stranding team has been deployed to a total of 264 animals, the majority of which were seals. As is the case with seals, some of these were healthy sightings, but MERR mounts a full response to every seal to assess them and set up our trained volunteer monitors to keep tabs on them throughout the daylight hours. Our volunteers educate the public about keeping a distance of 150’ from a resting seal, and keeping dogs on a leash. MERR responded to 23 dolphins, including 5 common dolphins, one harbor porpoise, a floating whale that was not located, and 212 seals.

Humpback whales continue to be listed under an Unusual Mortality Event for the species, meaning that a high number of the species has died within a concentrated period of time. MERR assisted our neighbors in New Jersey and in Maryland with necropsy assistance for the large number of humpback whales that were stranding there in the past year. North Atlantic right whales and minke whales are also listed under an Unusual Mortality Event. 

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