VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - With an alarming uptick in dolphin strandings, a possible funding cut to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center's Stranding Response Team couldn't come at a worse time.
More than 100 bottlenose dolphins have washed up on Virginia beaches this year -- more than half of those in the last six weeks. It's a mystery plaguing biologists, who are working alongside other marine professionals to find the cause. Now, there is a possible funding cut coming to those who respond to the dolphins that wash ashore, whether it be to save the ones barely alive or test those too late to save.
When the marine mammals are found beached along Hampton Roads' coastline, the Virginia Marine Mammal Stranding Network responds with staff, volunteers, vehicles and equipment paid for in part by a federal grant. That grant, called the Prescott Program, has been threatened with proposed budget cuts from the White House.
"The Prescott Program -- as a result of sequestration and maybe other things -- has been proposed, at least in the President's budget in F-Y 2014, to be eliminated. And we're really very, very dismayed about that," said Mark Swingle, director of research and conservation at the Virginia Aquarium. "Organizations like ours depend heavily on Prescott funding to fund our operations."
Swingle says the organization has competed for the grant and received the money since its inception in 2000. Given the dolphin mortality this summer, there's no greater proof that the money is sorely needed. In addition, Swingle says the loss of federal money could be bigger than the grant itself because the grant encourages public donations.
Stay with WAVY.com for updates on the possible funding cut and the dolphin strandings.
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