To celebrate World Oceans Day, I’d like to shine the spotlight on the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport.
While IMMS does have an aquarium-esque aspect with its Ocean Adventures Marine Park, offering anything from snorkeling with stingrays to swimming with dolphins, the most important feature of IMMS is the organization’s dedication to both education and conservation.
Not only does IMMS avidly attempt to educate the community on what we can do to preserve the ocean, but they are the premier stranding organization in the Mississippi-Louisiana-Alabama region of the Gulf Coast. Thus far, IMMS, in partnership with Mississippi State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has saved the lives of over 2,000 sea creatures.
“Typically, if you want to go to an entertainment facility, you go to a zoo or aquarium. If you want to do research, you go to a university. If you want to do rehabilitation, you go to an environmental group,” IMMS founder Dr. Moby Solangi said. “When put all together, I think it makes IMMS a very unique organization.”
According to Solangi, it’s absolutely vital that we protect all marine life, but especially dolphins, as the aquatic mammals play more of a direct role in our humanistic life than you may realize.
“One of the things that is very significant for us is that dolphins are the top of the food chain. They’re just like the canary in the coal mine,” he explained. “Basically, when the dolphins die, we are next.”
Factually, 3.5 billion people rely on the ocean as their primary source of food. Save the Sea, a non-profit organization committed to exactly what its name suggests, believes that number could double to 7 billion within the next two decades. Say the world’s dolphins died off, the entire oceanic food chain would become obsolete, ultimately shattering the human food chain as we know it.
In order to prevent that from happening, IMMS utilizes forensic medicine, if they are not able to save the animal, as a way to track patterns in dolphin mortality.
“We go look at the animal, find out how did it die…and we formulate trends,” Solangi said. “By studying these animals and finding the cause of death, we can then protect the rest of the dolphins that are out there in the wild.”
What Solangi and company are doing at IMMS is downright amazing, so next time you’re on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, make sure you go and check it out. All in all, I wish you a happy World Oceans Day and don’t forget that helping a dolphin helps you.