As the success of MARS is only possible because of the support and involvement of local communities, the organization has a strong focus on education, outreach and volunteer training. MARS participates in a number of community events and provides a range of training programs on species identification and observer training as well as Canada’s only Marine Mammal Medic course. With over 400 trained volunteers, government agency personnel, and hundreds more utilizing the hotline every year, MARS is actively engaging Canadians in the response, conservation and the welfare of some of Canada’s most iconic marine animals.



MARS developed and implemented the first and only marine animal medic course in Canada, where trainees can learn about the species, their conservation status and safe methods to respond to dead and distressed animals. Since the training program began, MARS has trained almost 400 volunteers from universities, communities and industry, as well as government personnel from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, provincial fisheries and Parks Canada. Because of the high quality of our training program, MARS was also asked to support the development of a response program, including training, in South Africa.

The primary focus of the MARS training program is to ensure human safety when encountering dead and distressed marine animals and assisting with response (when appropriate and authorized; and only under guidance and supervision of trained MARS experts).



MARS experts have extensive training in response methods; having received training from globally recognized experts in New Zealand, the UK and the US. For over 15 years, MARS has provided species identification and dead and live incident response training to interested parties, including Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada and provincial personnel.

MARS coordinators received training in 2005 from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) in the assessment and re-floatation of large live stranded whales, including the use of whale rescue pontoons (originally designed by Project Jonah in New Zealand). At that time, BDMLR also trained MARS coordinators in providing the training program to others. As such, MARS is an officially recognized trainer in the BDMLR whale re-floatation pontoon system.

Training in the use of the whale rescue re-floatation system was incorporated into the MARS marine mammal medic training program over ten years ago and has been delivered to hundreds of participants, including many Fisheries and Oceans Conservation & Protection  officers in Maritime and Gulf region. MARS is the only globally-recognized provider of such response training in Canada, and sole organization recognized by BDMLR to deliver training related to the re-floatation pontoon system.



MARS provides a high-quality 1-day Marine Animal Medic course that will provide participants with the knowledge and skills they need to support expert responders in effective and safe response to dead and distressed marine animal incidents, including live stranded animals.

The MARS Marine Mammal Medic course consists of a 1-day training course which includes:

  • in-class training on introduction to marine mammal species identification and basic biology, health, safety and animal welfare considerations, proper animal assessment and basic sample collection methods, introduction to live and dead marine animal response protocols and techniques;
  • hands-on and in-water training for response to live cetacean strandings, including support for animal assessment, live animals relocation techniques and the safe and effective use of whale rescue re-floatation pontoons;

Medic and species identification courses can be tailored to an individual organizations requirements. For more information, please contact mars@marineanimals.ca 



Every year, MARS staff and volunteers respond to incidents involving dead and distressed marine animals throughout the Maritime provinces. While we collaborate with a number of organizations, it is through the dedication and hard work of volunteers across the Maritime provinces the we continue to be successful.

MARS is committed to providing its volunteers with opportunities to safely engage in, and benefit from, participating in a number of different response activities.

“During the training session, we learned how to identify, report, and refloat stranded cetaceans in a way that is safe for both the whale and the people trying to help. One of the biggest takeaways for me was that even though most people mean well, it can be easy to harm the whale without proper training and knowledge of how to handle the cetacean. It is important to call the proper authorities (MARS) and make sure you know how to keep yourself and the whale safe before you attempt to help!”

Nicole UreDalhousie Association of Marine Biology Students

What We Do

Strandings & Response

Research & Reports