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COA Shares Award for Whale Rescue Program

Marine Mammal Stranding Response Program receives David J. St. Aubin Award for Excellence 2005
May 30th, 2005 - News

College of the Atlantic's marine mammal research and protection arm, Allied Whale, shared an award from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Northeast Marine Mammal Stranding Network this spring. The award, which acknowledges the coordinated assistance to an ailing beluga whale, was given during the annual meeting of the regional marine mammal stranding network in Virginia Beach, Virginia.Poco

A year ago, when a beluga whale, affectionately dubbed Poco, appeared in the waters around Mount Desert Island, COA's research team went on alert. Poco spent last summer around Mount Desert Island, then headed south. He died last fall in waters off Saco Bay. Though the team could not save the errant and unusually friendly Poco, the David J. St. Aubin Award for Excellence was given for the extraordinary collaborative efforts of the five agencies who worked as a unit to try to assist the lost and ill beluga. Besides Allied Whale, these agencies were the Department of Marine Resources in Boothbay Harbor, the University of New England in Biddeford, the New England Aquarium in Boston, and the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut, which ultimately performed an autopsy. It is presumed that Poco died of natural causes.

"We have always taken pride in how collaborative our network is," commented Dr. Sean Todd, a professor of biology and marine science at College of the Atlantic who received the award for Allied Whale. "This award justly recognizes the hard work of all the teams involved, for us that means the staff in our program, as well as our extremely dedicated students. The award also speaks to the great network of stranding organizations in the U.S. northeast."

The award is given annually by the NOAA Office of Protected Resources to recognize the efforts of various agencies that monitor the health and well-being of stranded marine mammals in the US northeast region. The northeast region meets annually to discuss policy, coordinate efforts and review the past year's activities. The David J. St. Aubin award honors the late St. Aubin of Mystic Aquarium, a veterinary authority on marine mammals and one of the founding members of the regional marine mammal stranding group. After St. Aubin died in 2002, the annual award was created to give to stranding organizations that have shown unusual organizational efforts in the past year.

At the meeting, the group also convened a panel of experts from each organization, along with others to meet by conference phone to develop strategies for catching, exchanging, capturing and relocating animals in the future. The ensuing document may be a timely effort given the recent sighting of a lone beluga in New Jersey waters.

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