Construction Notice: Seal Perimeter Fence

As of April 18, our team is installing fencing around the perimeter of our seal exhibit for the seals’ safety and to comply with USDA regulations. The exhibit will remain accessible during normal operating hours for visitors to observe our seals, and work is expected to be completed within a few weeks.

Sea turtle leaves tracks in the sand as it returns to the ocean

The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center Stranding Response Program coordinates responses for all marine mammals and sea turtles that come ashore in Virginia, whether sick, injured, dead, or entangled/entrapped and unable to safely return to their natural habitat. Trained professionals examine each animal and, if alive, determine the most humane course of action for each unique case. This nationally-recognized team of staff, volunteers, and cooperating agencies works 24 hours every day and 365 days per year, responding to and providing exceptional medical care for live strandings, and biomedical and forensic examinations of dead stranded animals. Since the program's inception more than 30 years ago, the team has responded to over 10,000 stranded marine mammals and sea turtles.

What To Do If You Encounter A Stranded Animal

  • Stay at least 100 yards away from whales, and 500 yards from critically-endangered right whales. 
  • Stay at least 50 yards away from other marine mammals and sea turtles.
  • Never surround or circle animals.​
  • Call Stranding Response at (757) 385-7575 if the animal appears injured, entangled, or otherwise in distress. Deceased animals should also be reported.
  • Stay at least 100 yards away from whales, and 500 yards from critically-endangered right whales.
  • Stay at least 50 yards away from other marine mammals and sea turtles.
  • Never surround or circle animals.​
  • Call Stranding Response at (757) 385-7575 to report the animal, alive or deceased.

If you hook a sea turtle on a fishing line anywhere in Virginia, do not remove the hook and do not cut the line to release it. You will not face legal consequences for simply hooking a turtle, and following these instructions can help provide a better outcome for the animal.

  1. If fishing from a pier, inform pier staff so they can help retrieve the turtle. If pier staff are not available, use a net to pull it up onto the pier, or walk it to shore. Do not attempt to pull it up to the pier by the fishing line. 
  2. Once the turtle is on the pier or the shore, call Stranding Response at (757) 385-7575 to report it and provide any information they need.
  3. Do not remove the hook. Our experienced team will remove the hook safely once the turtle is in their care.
  4. Once the turtle is secured on land and Stranding Response is on their way, cut the line two feet from the hook and cover the turtle with a towel to protect it from the sun.

Our local fishing community and Pier Partners do a great job notifying us of hooked sea turtles and we appreciate your assistance!

Seals are frequent visitors to our area in the winter. Though they can take short naps underwater, they must come onto land to get a full night's sleep, and will often haul out onto beaches, rocks, and structures near the water. Keep yourself and your pets at least 50 yards from seals. While most that are on land are healthy and simply resting, if a lone seal appears in distress or remains in the same location for more than 8 hours, call Stranding Response at (757) 385-7575 to report it. 

Seasons of Stranding

Marine mammals and sea turtles can become stranded at any time of the year for a variety of reasons. However, Stranding Response has designated two main "seasons" of the year in which sea turtles in particular are expected to become stranded due to specific issues.

The warmer months of the year are the time of year when sea turtles are frequently found hooked on fishing lines by anglers in Virginia. To support Stranding Response during hooking season, four local piers - Buckroe Fishing Pier, Little Island Fishing Pier, Ocean View Fishing Pier, and Virginia Beach Fishing Pier - have joined our Pier Partner Program. Each pier has signage, recovery gear, and pier staff who are willing to assist when a hooked sea turtle is reported. When a turtle is hooked, anglers or pier staff call the Stranding Response Team, who dispatch team members to aid the turtle and bring it back to our rehabilitation center for treatment, whenever possible.

If you hook a sea turtle on a fishing line anywhere in Virginia, do not remove the hook and do not cut the line to release it. You will not face legal consequences for simply hooking a turtle, and following these instructions can help provide a better outcome for the animal.

  1. If fishing from a pier, inform pier staff so they can help retrieve the turtle. If pier staff are not available, use a net to pull it up onto the pier, or walk it to shore. Do not attempt to pull it up to the pier by the fishing line.
  2. Once the turtle is on the pier or the shore, call Stranding Response at (757) 385-7575 to report it and provide any information they need.
  3. Do not remove the hook. Our experienced team will remove the hook safely once the turtle is in their care.
  4. Once the turtle is secured on land and Stranding Response is on their way, cut the line two feet from the hook and cover the turtle with a towel to protect it from the sun.

Our local fishing community and Pier Partners do a great job notifying us of hooked sea turtles and we appreciate your assistance!

Conversely, the colder months of the year are considered "cold stun season" for sea turtle strandings. Sea turtles are ectothermic, meaning they cannot produce their own body heat and rely on their environment for the warmth their bodies need to function. Although they will migrate south when winter approaches, water temperatures can drop suddenly in our area, leaving turtles stunned and too incapacitated to survive long without aid. 

If you encounter a cold-stunned sea turtle, call Stranding Response at (757) 385-7575 to report it. If it is in the water, maintain a 50 yard distance but provide Stranding with any information you can regarding its location and status. If it is out of the water, do not attempt to warm it, as warming a cold-stunned turtle too quickly can be harmful or even fatal. 

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