Marine Mammal Stranding Center Faces Budget Concerns [AUDIO]
The Brigantine-based Marine Mammal Stranding Center is dealing with financial hurdles after an unusually busy summer.
The non-profit was launched in 1978 by Bob Schoelkopf to fill a need in New Jersey to respond to marine mammals and sea turtles washing up on shore. They handle the entire state operation with a full-time staff of just four people, on-call 24/7.
"Rehab and education is the primary goal of the Center and always has been for close to 40 years," Schoelkopf explained.
He and his non-profit were dealt a tough hand in early July when a rash of dead dolphins began to wash up and down the Jersey Shore. The deaths were ruled an "unusual mortality event" by NOAA. In all, 103 dead dolphins have been picked up in the Garden State.
Officials say the dolphins died from viral pneumonia.
The declaration by NOAA helped defray some costs, but the Stranding Center has been saddled with transporting costs above and beyond their budget. Schoelkopf estimates that in transporting these animals, they've drive the equivalent from Brigantine, NJ to Anchorage, Alaska.
"We're probably about $50,000 above what we should be spending at this point," he said.
That kind of expense poses major headaches for an organization reliant on donations and grants.
"Fundraising efforts are underway to get several events going, and hopefully draw some money back in to the Stranding Center."
A golf outing will be held on October 18th at Mays Landing Country Club. They follow that fundraiser with a 5K run in Seaside Heights on November 2nd.
"So hopefully those two events will be building the coffers up a little bit to make it through the upcoming seal season," he said.
One other recent hurdle has been trying to fund-raise post-Sandy because of the increased competition for charity dollars and the fact that many of their usual donors are still dealing with their own aftermath from the storm.
"The cost of maintaining their properties and repair work takes precedent, and they're not able to give to us like they normally do," he explained.
Between the dolphin deaths and their normal workload, the Center has responded to over 210 stranding calls this year.
They were recently awarded a grant from the CRDA to develop an education program for distance learning in cooperation with Atlantic City Schools. It allows children to view what goes on at the Stranding Center and interact with their staff via camera.