News from the DNR Office of Communications

DNR and Partners Respond to Stranded Whale in Ocean City

DNR Reminds Citizens to Respect Marine Animals and Report Strandings

Annapolis, MD (May 13, 2010) — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the National Aquarium and partners responded to a Gervais’ beaked whale on May 8, stranded in Assawoman Bay, in Ocean City, Md. The whale was found injured and stranded on a sand spit 100 yards offshore.

The whale freed itself from the spit but biologists were concerned about its sporadic behavior, and captured the animal. They transported the whale to the Ocean City Department of Public works until the National Aquarium’s veterinary staff could assess the animal. After evaluation, vets determined that euthanasia was the most humane option for the whale.

“Euthanasia to end pain and suffering is sometimes the most humane alternative for a stranded animal,” commented Brent Whitaker, Senior Director of Biological Programs at the National Aquarium. “This choice is a difficult one for our staff to make but due to the severity of injury or disease, euthanasia to end suffering or prevent disease transmission to other animals is sometimes necessary.”

Whales are known to visit the Chesapeake Bay and are usually following food sources when they enter the system. Over the past few decades a handful of large whales have come into the Bay including 2 humpback whales in 1992, which were seen feeding near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. In 2006 an endangered sei whale came into the Bay draped across the bow of a cargo ship. We determined later through external and internal exams that the sei whale died when struck by that ship. In 1994 “Chessie” the manatee was rescued from The Bay and returned to Florida. Since “Chessie” we’ve seen manatees in the Chesapeake Bay every year during the summer months.

“It’s not uncommon for whales to venture up into Maryland waters,” said Cindy Driscoll, Director of DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Health Program at the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory. “If you see a whale it’s important to leave it alone.”

When marine mammals, including large whales, are in the Chesapeake Bay boaters are expected to adhere to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) regulations. The MMPA requires vessels to be at least 150 feet from any marine mammal, except in the case of the extremely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales, which require at least 1,500 feet. Never cast your line when you have seen marine mammals or sea turtles nearby. Never follow, chase, circle, or entrap a marine mammal. When you see a marine mammal, place your engine in neutral and allow the animal(s) to pass. Never feed a marine mammal. To report live or dead marine mammals (or sea turtles) please call the toll free hotline: 1-800-628-9944. Maryland Department of Natural Resources and The National Aquarium work together to document marine mammals and sea turtles in Maryland waters.

   May 13, 2010

Contact: Josh Davidsburg
410-260-8002 office I 410-507-7526 cell

About National Aquarium
The National Aquarium, a non-profit organization, is Maryland’s most exciting and popular cultural attraction, as well as one of the region’s leading conservation and education resources. Through transforming experiences, the National Aquarium inspires people to enjoy, respect, and protect the aquatic world. It is dedicated to education and conservation through more than a dozen programs that serve the environment and the community.

The Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) is the cornerstone of the National Aquarium's ocean health initiative. Formed in 1991 and staffed almost entirely by volunteers, MARP’s mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release stranded animals back into the natural environment whenever possible; share knowledge with the scientific community; and provide public educational programs through special events and presentations. MARP has successfully rescued, treated, and returned seals, dolphins, porpoises, pilot whales, pygmy sperm whales, sea turtles, and a manatee to their natural habitats.

The National Aquarium is a member of the Northeast Region of the National Stranding Network through an agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service. MARP staff and volunteers respond to animal strandings 24 hours a day in the coastal areas of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, and have returned more than 80 marine animals back to their natural environment.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009, is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 467,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries, and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic, and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at