NOAA Offers Tips for Assisting Marine Mammals

Entangled leatherback turtles freed by Coastal Studies Team. Photo/CCS Permit # 50 CFR 222-310

NOAA has issued the following tips for assisting a sick or injured marine mammal in the wild.

What You Should Do

For an animal on the beach, such as a seal, stay at least 150 feet away from it.

For large whales in the ocean, familiarize yourself with safe distance guidelines. They require that you slow down to a certain speed depending on how close you are to the whales. For the endangered North Atlantic right whale, the rules are even stricter. Approaching a right whale within 500 yards (1500 feet) is prohibited.

It is illegal to interrupt any marine mammal’s natural behavior. If your behavior changes their behavior, back away.

If you see an entangled, sick or injured animal, please report it. Never try to disentangle a whale, turtle or other marine animal, as this could be dangerous.

Call NOAA Fisheries Stranding & Disentanglement Hotline: 1-866-755-NOAA (6622) or one of NOAA’s network members.

From a safe distance, use your camera or cell phone to take a photo of the animal. This can help experts identify the species and the steps necessary to help it. In some cases, that may be observing the animal unless rescue personnel think the animal is in real danger or poses a safety risk to humans.

If you can, wait for a trained and authorized responder to arrive so you can help them locate the animal. Don’t chase or corral the injured animal if it tries to move away, track it from a safe distance if you are able.

If you observe incidents of people or pets tormenting, disturbing or attempting to touch a marine mammal or sea turtle contact NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement at 1-800-853-1864.