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Rescuers who respond to distressed whales and other marine animals say the federal government shutdown is making it more difficult to do their work.
A network of rescue groups in the U.S. works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to respond to marine mammals such as whales and seals when the animals are in trouble, such as when they are stranded on land or entangled in fishing gear. But the federal shutdown, which is entering its 33rd day on Wednesday, includes a shuttering of the NOAA operations the rescuers rely upon.
NOAA - Role - Deaths - Things - Animals
NOAA plays a role in preventing accidental whale deaths by doing things like tracking the animals, operating a hotline for mariners who find distressed whales and providing permits that allow the rescue groups to respond to emergencies. Those functions are disrupted or ground to a halt by the shutdown, and that's bad news if whales need help, said Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium in Boston, which has a rescue operation.
"If it was very prolonged, then it would become problematic to respond to animals that are in the water," LaCasse said. "And to be able to have a better handle on what is really going on."
Shutdown - Time - North - Atlantic - Right
The shutdown is coming at a particularly dangerous time for the endangered North Atlantic right whale, which numbers about 411, said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, a senior biologist with Whale and Dolphin Conservation of Plymouth, Massachusetts. The whales are under tight scrutiny right now because of recent years of high mortality and poor reproduction.
NOAA recently identified an aggregation of 100 of the whales south of Nantucket—nearly a quarter of the world's population—but the survey work is now interrupted by the shutdown, Asmutis-Silvia said. Surveys of rare whales are important for biologists who study the animals and so rescuers...
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