Our Stranding Network covers 3 counties & responds to the 2nd highest # of strandings in WA State. We conduct necropsies & test samples to gather information on the health of marine mammals & oceans, & field hundreds of calls about live seal pups on beaches, providing extensive public education about seal pups & marine mammals. Orca Network currently has NO funding to pay for our stranding network, & are experiencing a high # of porpoise strandings, some with a disease that also affects humans.
We have been funded by NOAA Fisheries since 2006, but have not been funded since June 2012, & the NOAA Grants program is on the chopping block in the Federal budget - future funding of all Stranding Networks will be cut. Even with the current level of funding, only half the programs are funded each year. We provide hundreds of volunteer hours each year, but need funding for our hotline, Marine Mammal Vet, sample testing, & response time & travel, especially with a steep rise in porpoise deaths.
Given the current lack of funding, & future demise of NOAA Marine Mammal Grants, & the rise of porpoise deaths in our stranding area, we are seeking alternative funding to continue to respond to porpoise, orca, gray whale, and other priority marine mammal strandings. By obtaining funding to cover limited response time and travel, pay our marine mammal vet to lead necropsies & get samples tested for diseases & toxins, we can investigate the rise in porpoise deaths & continue stranding responses.
Cryptococcus gattii, a fungal pathogen found in some of our dead stranded porpoise, is a serious ocean and terrestrial health issue in the Pacific NW. The fungus has been present not only in porpoise, but in humans & companion animals in BC Canada, WA, & OR, resulting in human & animal deaths, as well as in many porpoise deaths. This airborne fungus also poses a threat to endangered orcas in the NW. Data from dead porpoises adds to research being done on this disease for human & ocean health.