Strandings of marine species (whales, dolphins, turtles, ect.) have always been observed on Moroccan beaches. These are variable and unpredictable events. Their monitoring is the only way, at low cost, to study the populations of stranded species, through the examination of corpses.
Stranding is a very important source of information and knowledge about endangered animal populations (cetaceans, pinnipeds, sea turtles and certain elasmobranchs). Such knowledge is of great importance for conservation.
A stranded animal, whether dead or alive, provides information on biology (growth, reproduction, sex ratio ...), ecology (biogeography, abundance, diet ...), health (pathologies, parasites ...) and causes mortality of the species (natural, impact of human activities, etc.).
The National Institute for Fisheries Research (INRH) has set up a specific scientific program to monitor strandings since the 1990s. This institution, centralized in Casablanca until 1995, currently has six research centers. which cover the entire Moroccan coast (Atlantic and Mediterranean).
Thus and to succeed this program, the INRH has developed at the level of each of its Regional Centers, skills in the field.
INRH is traditionally requested by local authorities and law enforcement to provide scientific support in the management of strandings. This consists in identifying the species, identifying the biometric parameters, identifying the possible causes of stranding, taking photographs, consulting with other stakeholders on the actions to be taken for the evacuation of the carcass and, more recently, performing necropsies. and take tissue samples.
This activity tends to be structured within the INRH into a National Network for the monitoring of stresses, which is currently being upgraded.
The operation of the network is summarized in four phases:
The alert phase:
Collect information and initial information on strandings and evaluate the means required for the intervention. The alert is usually sent to the INRH correspondents by the local authorities, the Royal Gendarmerie or other stakeholders who collaborate with the INRH in this program.
The intervention phase :
The intervention is carried out in collaboration with the various stakeholders (local authorities, law enforcement agencies). It must be fast and effective to prevent health risks (zoonoses) in case of physical contact with live or dead cetaceans and to manage the evacuation of carcasses.
The exploitation phase :
Includes the collection of data on the stranded species (identification, biometrics, demographic, ecological parameters, causes of death, taking pictures), performing a necropsy and taking samples (tissues, organs, teeth, baleen ...) and internal and / or external parasites.
The information phase :
Feedback to local authorities (copy of the grounding report), network members and associated structures and media monitoring to inform and raise public awareness and the production of summary reports ...
The species stranded in Morocco are:
- Sea turtles
- Some elasmobranchs
Risks associated with strandings
Living or dead, a stranded cetacean presents a set of risks to be taken into account in the management of strandings. A living animal can struggle or bite, causing more or less serious injuries; a caudal fin stroke of a whale can propel a man to several tens of meters. Dead or injured animals can carry diseases and pose health risks, including transmission of staph infections, brucellosis, fungal infections, and other potentially life-threatening pathogens. It also happens that whales explode spontaneously by expelling the fermentation gas accumulated in the abdominal cavity.
Also, public intervention on stranded animals should be proscribed as far as possible, and that of authorized actors framed by strict rules. The establishment of a security perimeter and the wearing of disposable gloves and masks near the carcass are a necessity.
Never attempt to act alone, avoid any manipulation.
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