Marine Rescue Program Achieves New Milestone

OCEAN CITY — After over two decades of rescuing and rehabilitating injured or ill marine mammals, including the recent release of a juvenile grey seal from the beach in Ocean City just two weeks ago, the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) reached a significant milestone last week with its 100th successful release.

Since 1991, the National Aquarium’s MARP team has been responsible for responding to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles along the Delmarva peninsula, primarily along the nearly 4,400 miles of Maryland’s coast. Over the years, the MARP team has responded to a large number of strandings of ill or injured seals, turtles, and even dolphins and whales on the beaches in Ocean City and Assateague and more than a few that were rescued in other areas up and down the coast have been rehabilitated and released.

Last week, the MARP program hit a major milestone with its 100th successful release. MARP actually released three sea turtles last Friday from Point Lookout in St. Mary’s County just across the Chesapeake, marking the 100, 101 and 102 successful releases.

Throughout the unusually harsh winter and early spring in the mid-Atlantic region and up and down the east coast, the sudden phenomena of “cold-stunned” sea turtles discovered on beaches up and down the coast including a few as nearby as Chincoteague, kept MARP crews in the region on high alert.

The sea turtles hit patches of extremely cold water in their typical migratory patterns to warmer climates and the cold water literally stuns them to the point their bodies start to shut down and they wash up on the beaches. Seven cold-stunned turtles rescued from area beaches end up at the National Aquarium for rehabilitation during a two-week stretch in March and three of them were released last week from Point Lookout in St. Mary’s County.

MARP crews last Friday released two Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles named Duckie and Bender, as well as one green sea turtle named Willard, from Point Lookout. All three were rescued this winter after being “cold-stunned” and were rehabilitated at the National Aquarium this spring. Last Friday’s milestone 100th release came just two weeks after MARP officials released the juvenile grey seal “Ponyboy” from the beach just north of the fishing pier in Ocean City. Ponyboy was discovered on the beach in Ocean City on Easter with a severely injured front flipper and was rehabilitated and released becoming the 99th successful release.

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