Marine Animal Response Society
Marine Animal Conservation Through Community Engagement in the Maritimes
During the summer and fall of 2019, the Marine Animal Response Society (MARS) embarked on a Community Tour across the Maritimes. Our aim was to inform local communities about MARS as well as the importance of marine animal response in the bigger picture for marine conservation. We strive to engage and empower local community members to become active participants in marine animal response, enabling them to make a direct impact to marine conservation overall. Volunteers are fundamental to the marine animal response work that MARS leads and having a widespread volunteer network throughout the Maritimes is an essential component to ensuring that we are well-equipped to respond to as many incidents as possible in a safe and appropriate manner.
The MARS Community Tour made six stops across Nova Scotia (Amherst, Shelburne, Sydney, and Antigonish) and Prince Edward Island (Alberton and Charlottetown). These locations were strategically chosen to either coincide with other events that were a good fit, to engage communities where marine base is lacking, or in areas where we have existing relationships that we could continue to build off of. Each event comprised of an engaging presentation and Q&A session with MARS founder Tonya Wimmer, with the goal of highlighting the work MARS does for marine animal response and the important roles that volunteers play within the organization. In addition to presenting the overall picture, each presentation was tailored the specific community, highlighting previous response incidents and other relevant stories. Note that now that the framework is established, additional locations will be added in 2020, particularly in New Brunswick.
Overall, the Community Tour was quite successful… Attendance varied between locations but whether it was a small group of engaged community members or a room full of interested citizens, feedback was extremely positive. Events in Charlottetown, Sydney, and Antigonish were particularly well-attended, thanks in part to our existing relationships in those areas that helped with promotion. Just in the past 3 months, MARS has had over 50 inquiries from community members who would like to begin volunteering with us in various capacities. These inquiries have come from all over the region and most were from people in attendance at one of our events. We simply cannot do the work we do without volunteers, so this increase in interest in our work is a huge indicator of success of this Community Tour.
The information gathered from marine animal response incidents is essential to the larger marine conservation picture and often informs and/or directly impacts conservation measures that are taken for marine species, including some of our most endangered animals. In order to have as much impact as we can, it is important that we have a robust, engaged and informed volunteer network throughout the entire region. This supports the work that MARS is committed to doing by giving us a better picture of the overall wildlife health in our region as well as allowing us to provide the proper response necessary for each incident.