Since 1980, the DPMMR Protect Wild Dolphins Research and Conservation Program has served as the primary responder to marine mammal stranding events throughout 10,000 square-miles of precious Florida Keys marine habitat.

Man rescuing a dolphin from a mangrove tree
People rescuing dolphins near the shore

As authorized by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, DPMMR’s Stranding Investigations Program provides 24-hour response to sick, injured and deceased marine mammals within the coastal waters of Florida Keys and portions of the Everglades National Park. The program also offers logistical support to state biologists in the verification and rescue of sick, injured, or deceased manatees, an protected species that frequents waters of the Florida Bay.

Stranded cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are recovered and transported to DPMMR’s Dolphin and Whale Stranding Center in Key Largo for triage and evaluation for transport to any available marine mammal care center, until DPMMR facilities can be rebuilt following hurricane Irma. When responding to deceased animals, DPMMR first responders and veterinary staff perform a detailed post-mortem examination to determine cause of death and to collect otherwise unobtainable life history data. Such research data are crucial to species management and conservation.

DPMMR has provided stranding support for cetaceans since 1982, when they first attempted the rescue of (51) Pilot whales during a mass stranding off of Marathon Key. The Stranding Investigations Program was formally established in 1985 and, since then, DPMMR staff have responded to ~ 700 cetacean strandings involving (14) different cetacean species, including the first ever stranding and recovery of a 40 ft Bryde’s whale that took place in the Florida Bay (Feb 2019).

Rescuing a dolphin on a boat
Group of people rescuing a whale

DPMMR’s Stranding Investigations Program is a member of the Southeastern U.S. Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a group of marine animal rescue organizations that operates under authorization of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. When requested, DPMMR’s experts aid the NMFS Stranding Network to conduct interventions to disentangle dolphins and response to mass strandings or unusual mortality events throughout Florida.

The Stranding Investigations Program works closely with the DPMMR Dolphin Photo-Identification Program, which studies the lives of bottlenose dolphins in the coastal waters of the Upper Keys. In this way, the Stranding program contributes to uncovering the cause of death for dolphins studied during their lives and plays a crucial role in better species management and environmental conservation.

Meet The Team

Stephen McCulloch
DPMMR Executive Director of Stranding Operations

Arthur Cooper
Vice President Dolphins Plus / Director of Operations
Founder DPMMR
Assistant Stranding Coordinator

Mike Bankster
Assistant Stranding Coordinator

Jillian Schwartz, D.V.M
Dolphins Plus Veterinarian of Record

Katie Hernandez
Dolphins Plus Veterinary Technician

If you see a marine mammal in distress, please report it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission at:

1 (888) 404-FWCC (3922)