Marine Mammal Commission

Current Funding Opportunities

Funding Opportunities in Fiscal Year 2016

The Marine Mammal Commission will be accepting proposals between February 17, 2016 and April 5, 2016 for consideration on any subject, with greater emphasis given to proposals addressing the three focal areas described below. Approximately $85,000 is available in Fiscal Year 2016 with a limit of $20,000 per proposal. Projects requesting funding greater than $20,000 will not be accepted without prior approval from the Commission’s Research Program (see Submission Requirements below for details).  Additional weight will be given to proposals that leverage other resources, have matching funds, or are highly collaborative in nature.

Focal Areas

Cook Inlet Beluga Whales

Background: Since 1979, the Cook Inlet beluga whale population has declined by nearly 75 percent (from about 1,300 to 340 whales). This population was designated as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in 2000, and listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2008. Although subsistence harvest was halted in 2005, the population has failed to recover; in fact, it has continued to decline at an average rate of 0.4 percent annually over the past decade. Concurrent with the population decline, the summer range has contracted northwards and eastwards into the upper inlet near Anchorage. This range contraction puts a larger portion of the endangered population in close proximity to the most densely populated area of the state during the busy summer season, when boating, construction, and other human activities all increase.

Beluga whale pod in the Chukchi sea.

Beluga whale pod in the Chukchi sea. Photo taken under Marine Mammal Permit: 782-1719. (Laura Morse, NOAA)

The Commission is interested in research projects that might reduce the knowledge gaps or add to conservation/recovery efforts for Cook Inlet beluga whales. This may include collation or analyses of existing data, collection of new data, use of model systems to learn more about potential impacts of human activities on Cook Inlet belugas, cumulative effects analyses, or other innovative approaches that further our knowledge and recovery of this population.

Ice-Dependent Marine Mammals in the Arctic

Background: Arctic marine mammals are adapted to the extreme and seasonally varying Arctic environment. They are highly specialized at using different habitats for reproduction, foraging, molting, and migration in different seasons. While some species may adapt to a changing climate, others that rely heavily on the presence and quality of sea-ice for critical life history stages or vital behaviors will suffer deleterious effects from the decrease in presence and quality of Arctic sea-ice and other related shifts in their environment, as will the communities that depend upon them.

The Commission is interested in increasing our scientific understanding of how sea-ice changes in the Arctic will impact marine mammal populations. Proposals should address how the most sensitive and vulnerable species rely on sea-ice and the potential or known negative consequences that loss of sea-ice will have on those species. We are interested in projects that will improve our understanding of the effects of climate change on Arctic marine mammal species, and/or anticipate the impact of climate changes on Arctic species and human communities reliant on these species.

Reduction of Marine Mammal Bycatch in Small-Scale Local Fisheries

Background: Bycatch is the single greatest source of direct mortality of marine mammals worldwide. Gear types posing the greatest risk differ depending on the species and region. For example, whereas gillnets are a significant risk to most species, long-lines are hazardous for some and trawl nets for others, while pot and trap gear pose a risk primarily to large whales. Mitigation measures (e.g., pingers on gillnets or escape openings in trawl nets) have been found to work in some cases. However, small-scale local fisheries, in particular, tend to be poorly monitored and largely unregulated, and there is often limited awareness of potential mitigation measures or insufficient capacity for implementing such measures.

The Commission is interested in receiving proposals that will contribute to the reduction of marine mammal mortality in small-scale local fisheries. Proposals can focus on ways to identify fisheries with high or otherwise serious bycatch rates, outreach to and education of fishermen, design and/or testing of new mitigation devices or methods, novel approaches for improving the regulation of these fisheries, or the application of proven mitigation devices or methods to fisheries with known bycatch problems.

Submission Requirements

Tests with the side-scan sonar to record Amazonian manatees in Amanã Sustainable Development Reserve

Tests with the side-scan sonar to record Amazonian manatees in Amanã Sustainable Development Reserve. (Miriam Marmontel)

This year, proposals requesting up to $20,000 will follow the submission requirements and the evaluation process for small grants. Grants will be awarded based on the review of a single, 3-page proposal, and subject to the availability of funds.

Please review and follow the instructions for small grantscarefully. Proposals that do not meet the proposal requirements will not be evaluated or considered for funding. For anyone considering submitting a proposal requesting more than $20,000, please contact the Research Program Officer ( well in advance of the proposal deadline on April 5, 2016 to allow sufficient time for review and approval of the request before you prepare and submit your proposal. NOTE: a more detailed proposal will be required.

For a given project, only a single proposal, submitted to a single topic area (see below) will be accepted.

Topic Area A: Research and Conservation

Proposals on basic or applied marine mammal research, development of new technologies, or those explicitly related to marine mammal conservation, policy or management, should be submitted to this topic area.

Topic Area B: Outreach and Connectivity

Proposals requesting funds for conferences, workshops, symposia, education, outreach, or publication development should be submitted to this topic area.

Proposal Evaluation

All proposals will be evaluated with respect to the importance or significance of the type of project proposed,1  its relevance to focal areas and the Commission’s mission and goals,2  the technical and resource adequacy of the proposal,3  and the likelihood that the project will achieve its stated objectives or outcomes.

Deploying a satellite tag on an adult male northern elephant seal

Deploying a satellite tag on an adult male northern elephant seal. This instrument tells us about the location and diving behavior of the seal, as well as the temperature and salinity of the ocean as the seal swims to find food. Research conducted under NMFS permit #87-1743. (Dan Costa)

Potential applicants may contact Samantha Simmons, Ph.D., Assistant Scientific Program Director, by e-mail ( or telephone (301-504-0087) with any questions about proposal requirements, the evaluation process, out of cycle funding, or suitability of a topic for Commission funding. During a review cycle, all proposals and pre-proposals that meet minimum requirements will be reviewed by the Commission’s staff, Committee of Scientific Advisors on Marine Mammals, Commissioners, and external experts, as necessary. The Commission will choose reviewers based on their expertise and assurance that they have no conflict of interest with the proposed activities. The Commission will maintain the confidentiality of all proposals.

  1. For example, would such a project significantly contribute to the conservation of a species/population, advance critical scientific understanding, contribute to the development of innovative technology, lead to groundbreaking policy ideas, catalyze critical thinking through a meeting, workshop or symposium, or contribute to an important conservation issue through outreach, communication or education? 

  2. Mission: ensure consistency with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and other relevant mandates to protect and conserve marine mammals through oversight of domestic and international policies and actions of federal agencies addressing human impacts to marine mammals and their ecosystems. Strategic Goal: ensure the protection and conservation of marine mammals as functioning elements of healthy, stable marine ecosystems through science-based mitigation and monitoring of anthropogenic impacts on these populations and their ecosystem.  

  3. For example, are the elements described in the proposal (e.g., project plan, field and lab procedures, sample sizes, proposed statistical analyses, equipment, research platforms) internally consistent and are they sufficient to achieve the project’s goals, objectives, and outcomes?