Maui News

NOAA Awards Nearly $200,000 to Protect Hawai‘i’s Marine Mammals

September 29, 2017, 9:17 AM HST
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Preliminary investigation of the adult male Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) by researchers at Hawai‘i Pacific University’s Marine Mammal Stranding Program indicate signs of severe disease in its heart, lungs and stomach. Photo credit: NOAA Permit #932-1905.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono today announced that Hawai‘i conservation programs will receive nearly $200,000 in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funding for the recovery and treatment of stranded marine animals.

“We were all captivated by the birth of Kaimana the monk seal on the shores of Waikiki this summer,” said Sen. Hirono. “But, marine mammals are threatened by climate change, development and pollution. This funding will help two Hawai‘i organizations with a history in marine mammal protection to conduct research on marine mammal mortality and rehabilitate and release monk seals.”

This year’s John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance grant was awarded to The University of Hawaii (UH) and The Marine Mammal Center for their work to support conservation research. As part of the grant funding, UH will receive $100,000 to investigate causes of mortality in Pacific Island marine mammals.

“Whales and dolphins are sentinels of ocean health, and like a canary in a coal mine, are one of our first indicators of change to Hawai‘i’s marine ecosystem,” said Dr. Kristi West, standing director for the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. “As the only entity in the state that conducts cause of death investigations for stranded dolphins and whales, we rely heavily on the Prescott grant to determine what threatens the survival of 20 different species of dolphins and whales that call Hawai‘i home.”

In addition, The Marine Mammal Center will receive $98,951 to support its Hawaiian Monk Seal Rehabilitation Program.

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“Public-private partnerships are essential for the successful conservation of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal,” said Dr. Jeff Boehm, Executive Director of The Marine Mammal Center, which operates Ke Kai Ola in Kailua-Kona, a dedicated hospital for monk seals. “The critical funds from this award allow us to continue to rehabilitate vulnerable seals, understand health trends in the population, and enhance community involvement in recovery efforts.”

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Sen. Hirono continues to advocate for the protection of federal funding for NOAA. Earlier this year, Sen. Hirono and Susan Collins (R-Maine) led a bipartisan letter to the Trump administration urging reconsideration of proposed cuts to NOAA’s budget that would disproportionately hurt Hawai‘i and other coastal states.

The Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposal currently threatens to zero out funding for the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program and other important NOAA programs.

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