NMFS awarded nearly $3 million in grants last week to support the conservation and recovery of protected marine species through stranding response and marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation.

Through the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program, NMFS awarded 32 grants to nonprofit organizations, aquariums, universities, and coastal state, local and tribal governments that are members of the National Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Recipients will use their award funds to respond to marine mammal strandings, improve capacity at their facilities, and conduct scientific investigations into the causes of stranding events and unusual mortality events. Funding will also be used to help recover marine mammals that NOAA Fisheries has designated “Species in the Spotlight,” all of which have a high risk of extinction in the near future.

“Our stranding network partners provide us valuable environmental data by collecting information from stranding and rescue events,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries, in a press release. “They help NOAA establish links between marine mammal health and the health of coastal ecosystems and communities.”

The stranding network’s trained professionals and volunteers serve as the first responders to marine mammals in distress and work to provide humane care to animals in need. They also investigate causes of disease, injury, or illness. NOAA Fisheries relies on its partnership with the network’s members to collect research about marine mammal health needed to develop effective conservation programs for marine mammal populations.

Applications for the 2017 Prescott grant cycle are being accepted until October 5. For more information about the Prescott grant program, eligibility requirements, and funding opportunities, please go to www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/prescott.

Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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