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If you find a stranded dolphin or whale, don't worry - there’s an app for that

Dolphin and whale rescue is getting smarter.
Dolphin and whale rescue is getting smarter.
Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

Dolphin and whale rescue is getting smarter, and a new smartphone app from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is helping the public better respond to marine mammal strandings and quickly alert local rescue organizations.

The free app “Dolphin & Whale 911” currently serves the Southeastern U.S. — including Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas and St. Croix). Reports of live or dead stranded, injured or entangled marine mammals through the app will go immediately to trained and authorized emergency responders from the Southeast U.S. Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

In Florida, the app connects users to a state wildlife alert hotline run by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which in turn relays cases in specific areas to local partners like Mote Marine Laboratory. Mote, an independent nonprofit marine science institution, operates a 24-hour Stranding Investigations Program in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Mote's program can also be reached directly by calling 941-988-0212.

Those without smartphones may continue to report live or dead stranded, injured or entangled marine mammals throughout the Southeastern U.S. by calling 1-877-WHALE HELP (1-877-942-5343) or directly calling local programs.

“Many people don’t know what to do when they find a stranded marine mammal — this app can really help with that,” said Gretchen Lovewell, manager of the Stranding Investigations Program at Mote. “The app will put good advice into their hands immediately, connect them with state and local professionals and guide them in providing us the right pieces of information and even photos. It’s a great tool for anyone living on or visiting the coast.”

  • Dolphin & Whale 911 is available for iPhone and Android via smartphone app stores, iTunes and Google Play, or from NOAA’s official app site.

What the app can do:

  • Report dead, injured or entangled marine mammals by connecting you to the nearest stranding response hotline, so that trained responders and veterinarians can treat the animal.
  • Send a photo of the marine mammal along with GPS coordinates to the marine mammal stranding network.
  • Identify the kind of animal by providing an electronic field guide of marine mammals found in the Southeastern U.S.
  • Help living and dead stranded marine mammals by providing a list of “do and don’t” tips on what to do when you find a stranded dolphin, whale or seal.

Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program provides 24-hour responses to sick, injured and deceased marine mammals and sea turtles with a focus on Sarasota and Manatee Counties, occasionally assisting with responses outside this range. On average, the program responds to 20 dolphins or whales and 65 sea turtles per year — and these numbers may rise sharply when mass strandings occur. Program staff also answer numerous questions from the public, fielding about 500 calls per year.

If you see a stranded dolphin, whale or sea turtle in Sarasota or Manatee county waters, you can report it by calling Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program pager: 941-988-0212. You must leave a verbal message with a call-back number for our staff to return your call.

Now smartphone users can also use Dolphin & Whale 911 to report marine mammals anywhere in the Southeastern U.S., even if you don’t know the phone number of your local stranding program.

Mote is dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans with an emphasis on world-class research relevant to conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, healthy habitats and natural resources. Research programs include studies of human cancer using marine models, the effects of man-made and natural toxins on humans and on the environment, the health of wild fisheries, developing sustainable and successful fish restocking techniques and food production technologies and the development of ocean technology to help us better understand the health of the environment. Mote research programs also focus on understanding the population dynamics of manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and coral reefs and on conservation and restoration efforts related to these species and ecosystems. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing this research is The Aquarium at Mote, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year.

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