Beaching also occurs because of human intervention: impact with boats, tangling, ingesting trash from the water such as balloons or plastic bags, or illegal hunting. There are still some Caribbean countries that make illegal use of marine mammal products such as: meat, fat, bones, or oils. This directly affects the survival of these species, many of which are endangered. There are alternative or synthetic products that can be used to substitute products from whales, dolphins, or manatees, used traditionally or commercially. Scientific research and the immediate attention to beaching cases are vital for protecting and conserving these species.
Each beaching is unique, and action to be taken depends on the circumstances in which it occurs. If you were to find a marine mammal stranded on the shore, follow these steps and write down the following information:
1-See if the animal is alive or dead,
2-Describe the animal briefly, if possible, identify the species. Report where the beaching occurred, the number of stranded animals, and what happened.
3-Notify the beaching to the Caribbean Stranding Network (899-2048) and provide your name and phone number. The Network will say what first aid action is needed and will activate the work team and notify relevant government agencies.
4-You can also notify the beaching to the Cuerpo de Vigilantes of the Department of Natural Resources, Tel: 725-1202/1723-5137 / 721-5720.
Protection of marine mammals
In most Caribbean nations it is illegal to hunt marine mammals or use products derived from them. In the United States and its territories, for example, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 strictly prohibit hunting, unauthorized use and intervention with whales, dolphins, manatees, dead or alive. In Puerto Rico, all marine mammals are protected under the Fisheries Act of 1938, the Wildlife Act of 1976 and the Reglamento para Regir el Manejo de las Especies Vulnerables o en Peligro de Extinción (Regulations for Handling Vulnerable and Endangered Species) of the Department of Natural Resources of 1985.
You can help preserve this resource, heritage of Puerto Rico, noting the following guidelines:
1-If you drive a boat: when you see serials indicating the presence of marine mammals, slow down to a minimum so that you do not make waves.
2-If diving, look at the mammals but do not touch them. Take
photographs if you wish but do not deliberately approach the animal.
3-If fishing, do not discard entangled fish threads in the water. Marine mammals often get injured by floating hooks and nylon threads.
4-If you are going to the beach, do not discard plastic waste in the sand, including bags, balloons, or plastic six-pack rings on soda cans. Dolphins have died from ingesting these plastics.
5-If you have friends who enjoy water sports, talk to them about these harmless creatures. They would not attack even if their lives depended on it.
We extend our sincerest thanks to biology students Darien Lopez Ocasio, Dianne Martinez, and Damaris De Jesus; and biologist Fernando Gonzalez for collecting some of the data on the species mentioned here.
Autor: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: May 27, 2009.
Version: 08040208 Rev. 1