A Halifax based organization hopes to get more Island communities interested in volunteering to help marine animals that have been stranded or injured.

The Marine Animal Response Society (MARS) recently held a community tour on Prince Edward Island, with one of the presentations taking place at the Cultural & Heritage Centre in Alberton on Oct. 29.

This tour focussed on engaging local community members in the need for marine animal conservation, and to discuss how community members can help respond to marine animal incidents in the Maritime provinces. 

“Because our organization is based in the Halifax region in Nova Scotia, we work very often with the veterinarians at the Atlantic Vet College.

“But sometimes we can’t always get to places that are further away, or we can’t necessarily drop what we’re doing to get out to somebody’s place,” said Tonya Wimmer, executive director of MARS. 

“Having people in our communities who live near the water and beaches and things like that, they can help us be that first level of response to go down to help us figure out what is going on, what the weather is doing, what the animals are doing, what the access point to the area is, and that’s really a critical piece to enable us to respond in a very efficient manner.”

Ms Wimmer said MARS wanted to try to get to communities where the organization might not already have volunteers.

The presentation was hosted by the Cascumpec Bay Watershed Association (CBWA). One of those in attendance was the association’s coordinator John Lane.

He said during the presentation Ms Wimmer went through a gamut of scenarios involving marine animals and what sometimes happens in those scenarios. She also had props that were to scale, including a small pilot whale, and a dolphin.

“It gave you a sense of how big these stranded animals sometimes are and how much effort it might be to save them or help them,” he said. “Even the dolphin might have been six or seven feet. It gives you a better idea of what it is that people can sometimes get involved with when they’re involved with MARS.”

Volunteers might not be directly involved in working with a marine animal, but they’re able to help in other ways, like helping with traffic control, with food and water. Ms Wimmer said there’s a lot of things people can do that may fit better with their abilities or their interests.

One thing Ms Wimmer was impressed with was the passion Islanders have about the animals in the ocean, and how they seem to have a natural affinity for them.

“Everyone was expressing their interest in this animal, or a story they had about one, or something they had seen before, and really wanting to help in some way,” she said. “For us, a lot of this tour has been about how we harness that passion so people can help, but it’s done in a safe way, and is the appropriate thing for the animal to do as well.”

For information on MARS visit their website www.marineanimals.ca

If a resident finds a stranded, entangled, injured, or dead animal, they can contact MARS through the association’s hotline.

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