The Marine Mammal Stranding Center is a non-profit private institution launched in 1978 with a handful of volunteers and a Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (C.E.T.A.) grant. It was founded and is still directed by Robert Schoelkopf and his wife, Sheila Dean. The couple works with a small paid personnel and volunteers with a wide range of skills and professional backgrounds who continue to provide care for the animals.
Originally located in Gardner?s Basin in the inlet sector of Atlantic City, the center is now based on the barrier island of Brigantine, which sits along the coast of New Jersey?s biggest wildlife haven. With an authorization and permit from the State and Federal Governments, the center has responded to more than 3,900 strandings of dolphins, seals, whales and sea turtles that have washed ashore over the years. The term ?stranding? is used for sea mammals and turtles that are found on the beach either dead or alive.
Since January of this year, the center has rescued about 100 harbor, gray, and harp seals at the Jersey Shore - double its usual number. Federal law prohibits interacting with the animals. The National Marine Fisheries Service enforces the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 which forbids the harassment of any sea turtle or marine mammal. Harassment includes any interaction that may disturb the natural behavior of the animal or raise the chances for injury.
The goal of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center is to provide improved and continual rehabilitation services for these animals. Through the team efforts and dedication of the stranding center?s staff, every attempt is undertaken to rehabilitate and release these animals back into their natural ocean habitat. It currently has an 88.9% release rate.
Although these government agencies sanction the handling of strandings in the state of New Jersey only, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center is occasionally called upon to help with animals in other states. All financial assistance comes through memberships, grants, donations and fund-raising initiatives.
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