In 2000, NOAA recognized the great value of the work being done and established the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program to help defray a portion of the cost to do this work.
Since its inception, the program has provided over $45 million in support, and the response organizations have provided matching funds of almost $16 million, thus increasing the impact of this program.
Over the last several years, however, Congress and NOAA have chipped away at this grant fund, leaving the response teams and investigators with little to no support. Federal grant support for marine mammal stranding response has been cut by almost 73 percent since 2000.
Still, we struggle on, fulfilling NOAA's own mandate at our own expense ... because it is the right thing to do.
But the reality is that many of these small organizations can no longer support the level of work required by new NOAA guidelines and requests.
Stranded animals will not be cared for in some areas. The data NOAA policy makers need to manage these populations will not be collected. The consequences will impact not only the dolphins, whales and seals, but all of us who depend on a healthy ocean for recreation, food, and our livelihoods.