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Atlantic Marine Conservation Society receives $95G for education coordinator

In its four-year existence, the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society has done what it can to help marine wildlife. Now the AMCS is getting a helping hand itself.

The nonprofit AMSC was presented with a $95,822 check Wednesday afternoon, a grant by Parks & Trails New York to expand a partnership with Hallock State Park Preserve by creating a two-year education coordinator position. This grant — money from real estate transfer fees that goes into an environmental protection fund — is being matched by local contributors, including the AMCS, said Richard Remmer, a board member and vice chairman of Parks & Trails New York.

The oversized check was presented during an 18-minute ceremony at Hallock State Park Preserve in Riverhead.

In addition to conducting research on marine life and responding to stranded animals, the AMCS sees public education as a vital part of its mission. Robert DiGiovanni Jr., the AMCS founder and chief scientist, said through education people may become better stewards of the environment. He said, “I have been involved with marine mammal and sea turtle rescue for, well, it is close to three decades now and the most common thing we hear is, ‘I had no idea there were whales here.’ ”

Mr. DiGiovanni, in an interview before the ceremony, recalled being asked by schoolchildren what was the worst stranding he had seen.

“I thought about it for a minute and I realized, it’s the one that we can do something about,” he said. “So, if you’re talking about an animal that has ingested debris or gear and we can do something to mitigate that, those are the ones we need to be able to change.”

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said the public has great interest in protecting marine animals. “Partnership is one word and eduction is the other, and that’s where this money is going to be utilized,” he said. “Education is a critical part in continuing our conservation efforts.”

State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) said: “I think this is government in action. This is good government, having public and private partnerships and grants that can enhance not only our communities, particularly during the pandemic … This grant money will go a long way to further beautify this park.”

George Gorman, the Long Island state parks regional director, said increased infrastucture funding for state parks has been beneficial. “Particularly here on Long Island, every park has benefitted to a large degree,” he said.

Mr. DiGiovanni said the AMSC has responded to over 800 animals.

“We have more whales washing up on our shores, but we also have more whales being seen here,” he said, referring to the New York/New Jersey Bight. “Twenty years ago it would be rare to see a whale. Prior to 2007, you would get one large whale every couple of years. After 2007, you got one or two a year. Now we’re already at 11 large whales this year alone.

“That’s a change. Now, if we’re seeing a lot more animals, well then maybe that’s proportional, but we need to understand that so we can understand the impact.”