What to do if you find an injured or deceased marine animal

A P.E.I. woman discovered a dead harbour porpoise on the beach near Panmure Island this week, and had difficulty passing on the information to the right officials.

'You are standing on the beach in the sunlight trying to google something as quick as you can'

Venessa Backman said a dead harbour porpoise was an unusual thing to find on a walk along the beach near Panmure Island. (Submitted by Venessa Backman)

It started out as a typical walk along the beach near Panmure Island, P.E.I., for local resident Venessa Backman and her dog on Wednesday, but what they discovered was not.

"We were walking along and saw this big thing and I actually thought it was a dolphin," Backman said.

They had actually discovered a four-foot long dead harbour porpoise on the beach.

"I have never seen anything like this before. It was very interesting to find something like that," she said.

Backman took a picture and sent it to her husband. He said she should let the authorities know that the deceased cetacean was there.

She tried contacting someone with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, but was unable to pass on the information because she wasn't able to find anything on its website.

'Google something as quick as you can'

"You are standing on the beach in the sunlight trying to Google something as quick as you can to get ahold of someone," said Backman.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada does have a page that lists the different organizations that should be contacted in the event of a marine animal incident.

The people to contact in the Maritime provinces is the Marine Animal Response Society (MARS). It has an emergency hotline number to report stranded, injured or dead marine animals, such as sea turtles, dolphins, sharks and whales.

People are asked to report incidents of injured, distressed or dead marine animals found in the water or on shores across the Maritimes to the Marine Animal Response Society. (John Robertson/CBC)

"We try to work with our partners as best as possible to figure out what should be done. Sometimes it's putting it back in the water, other times it's not, it's helping it in other ways," said Tonya Wimmer, the executive director of MARS.

"Then if it is a dead animal, we do try to at least document the incident to figure out what it was and then hopefully from there we can figure out a bit more information about what happened to it."

The government website for P.E.I. also lists the provincial Department of Agriculture and Fisheries as a contact when a dead marine animal is discovered.

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