Virginia Beach, Va. – The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program was honored under the Nonprofit Volunteer Program category at the 39th Hampton Roads Volunteer Achievement Awards event, held earlier in April.
The Stranding Response Team is comprised of about 80 volunteers who perform a variety of tasks both on and off site to support the staff with both live and dead marine mammals and sea turtles, officials say.
In 2013, the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team played a vital role during the Aquarium’s response to the largest unusual dolphin mortality event in 25 years.
The team normally responds to approximately 100 stranded marine mammals per year, according to Aquarium officials.
Over the course of a four month time span, (July through October), staff and volunteers were responding, recovering and examining more than 340 dolphins that had stranded sick, injured, or dead on Virginia’s beaches.
Teams of volunteers were organized each day for tiresome hours of field response covering more than 2,000 miles of coastline, according to Virginia Aquarium officials. Field response involves dirty, heavy physical work to respond to stranded animals, sometimes in remote areas.
Volunteers worked extra shifts, often working full days collecting carcasses, cleaning gear, organizing samples, helping to care for rehabilitation patients and much more.
In 2013 alone, volunteers donated more than 16,500 hours to strandings, 194 of those specifically for outreach events within the community.
Previous coverage on dolphin deaths: