Page 41 - Discover South Mississippi - Winter, 2024
P. 41

Both marine mammals and sea turtles are protected by federal law. The Mississippi Sound is a critical habitat for several species of sea turtles, notably the Kemp’s Ridley – the most critically endangered species of sea turtle in the world. It is also home to one of the largest bottlenose dolphin populations in the country and is an important area for these animals to birth and raise their young. This habitat is often under threat due to natural and human disasters such as hurricanes, storms, oil spills, and river diversions.
Just as the Red Cross offers human aid during disasters, IMMS staff act as first responders answering to reports of dead, sick, or injured marine mammals and sea turtles on the Mississippi Coast. IMMS is able to provide
medical services for animals in need at its state-of- the-art facility – the only rehabilitation facility for both dolphins and sea turtles in Mississippi. Over the course of its history, IMMS has rehabilitated over 1000 sea turtles and over 10 marine mammals.
Unfortunately, sea turtles in this area frequent fishing piers and are often caught accidentally. Dolphins or sea turtles can also become sick and wash up on shore in need of medical assistance. If you are fishing or walking down the beach and
see one of these distressed animals, what is the appropriate thing to do? Call IMMS at 888-SOS- DOLPHIN!
Do not cut any fishing line attached to a sea turtle and do not push a distressed dolphin or sea turtle back into the water. While this may seem like the best option, releasing an injured or sick animal often has dire consequences. Ingested fishing hooks can cause obstructions and excess fishing line can wrap around the sea turtle causing injury or death. Sick dolphins and sea turtles that have washed up on the beach are in need of medical attention and have likely come into shallow water for their own protection. Pushing them back into the water can and often does result in death. The best action to take is to call the professionals at IMMS immediately. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
IMMS’ goal is always to release any successfully rehabilitated sea turtle or dolphin back into the wild where they belong. If that is not an option due to age or other health reasons, IMMS works with their federal partners to find a forever home for these animals. Always remember, IMMS
relies on you! Dialing their hotline could save an animal’s life.
  Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
10801 Dolphin Ln., Gulfport 228.896.9182 |
Report a sick, injured, or stranded marine mammal or sea turtle by calling 888-SOS-DOLPHIN!

   39   40   41   42   43