Santa Barbara recommends terminating marine mammal rescue agreement

Santa Barbara Waterfront Department’s license agreement with the American Cetacean Society (Santa Barbara Chapter) is on track to be terminated Nov. 17, with the city’s Harbor Commission recommending the contract termination and authorizing the beginning of lease discussions with Channel Islands Marine Wildlife Institute to provide marine wildlife rescue and rehabilitation services.

The city had a relationship and license agreement with Peter Howorth to operate the Marine Mammal Center. Howorth held a federal permit from 1985 to 2015 to offer rescue and rehabilitation services for marine mammals. Channel Islands Marine Wildlife Institute is now the only federally permitted organization to offer marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation services in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

“Marine mammals are susceptible to diseases such as domoic acid poisoning. They can be injured by predators or entangled in fishing lines or nets. Their population has increased dramatically over the past 20 years, and they can become a nuisance when they colonize docks, boats, swim steps, launch ramps and other areas,” city staff stated. “Harbors currently having serious problems with nuisance marine mammals include San Francisco, Monterey, Channel Islands, Dana Point, and others.”

Channel Islands Marina and Wildlife Institute will take the lead on rescuing and rehabilitating marine mammals along California’s south central coast.

Howarth and the city would likely negotiate a fair market value for the barge used for rescues.

The Harbor Commission’s recommendation moves forward to the City Council.

(photo by Parimal M. Rohit)

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