Federal bureaucracy delays dolphin rescues

Federal bureaucracy delays dolphin rescues

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Federal red tape could be endangering the lives of dolphins in distress. The most recent example involves a dolphin which stranded, and then later died, in the waters of Fort Bayou in Jackson County.

Dr. Moby Solangi, executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, says he's frustrated by the existing protocol which oversees his agency responding to dolphin rescues.

The latest case in point was a dolphin which stranded in the Fort Bayou waters of Jackson County. IMMS responded, but before they could lay hands on the animal, they need federal approval from NOAA. And that can take time. Up to a week in some cases.

"Time is absolutely critical, especially when an animal is out of habitat. It only has sometimes a day or two or three. We don't know what made it strand. If it is sick, it's going to go downhill very quickly. And you don't want to wait until it's about to die or dead," said Dr. Solangi.

Typically, the agencies involved with dolphin strandings are NOAA, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the IMMS.

"When those three agencies are working with a federally managed species, everything has to start with NOAA in getting the authorization," said Dr. Paul Mickle, chief scientific officer for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

But that is often times much easier said than done.

"When you cannot handle appropriately and intervene, because of red tape, we lose a lot of opportunity to learn about what may be going on," said Dr. Solangi, "We have to get approval from NOAA. There's a process, we have to make a phone call. It goes to Miami and then to Washington, then Florida, St. Petersburg. So, there's a lot of bureaucracy that has to take place. In the meantime, it can take a week or two weeks or longer to make a decision on an animal that is out of habitat."

In the case of the Fort Bayou dolphin, it wound up dead, while potential rescuers awaited federal approval to intervene. DMR is now working with NOAA to try and streamline the process.

"The interaction that I've had with NOAA has been very fluid. Again, it's protocols, it's standardization and these things take some time. But we're going to do our best to streamline the process and give the best chance to the animal who's in distress or stranded," said Dr. Mickle.

WLOX News Now reached out to NOAA for comment about the current process and why it can take so long. Read their side of the story here: http://bit.ly/2tmI48G

Copyright 2017 WLOX. All rights reserved.