Marine Mammal Commission

FY 2019 Results Summary


This web page summarizes the results of the Marine Mammal Commission’s (the Commission) Survey of Federally Funded Marine Mammal Research (the Survey) for fiscal year (FY) 2019. Please see the Data Notice below for details about what these results represent. For more information about the Survey, click here.

The Survey focuses on marine mammal research projects/programs, which are defined as:

  1. projects funded as part of a recognized research/grants program (including funding for workshops, meetings, and conferences),
  2. projects supported in response to hypothesis driven scientific research and monitoring (excluding monitoring for mitigation only), and
  3. projects or activities conducted in whole or part to meet the requirements to prepare and update stock assessment reports under section 117 of the MMPA, including the collection and evaluation of abundance data, stock delineation and status information, and estimates of human-caused mortality and serious injury of marine mammals.

Projects reported to the Survey conform to at least one part of this definition.

Importantly, the Survey only solicits information about federal funding sources, and thus does not include funding for marine mammal research from state agencies, non-governmental organizations, or private companies (e.g., settlement funds from private industry for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill).

Below, we provide a high-level summary of the reported FY 2019 funding by agency, project objective, and species. The total funding amount for each project was rounded to the nearest $10,000 when reported. Requests for additional information or details about federal marine mammal research and funding reported in FY 2019 can be made by contacting the Commission at


Funding by Agency

For FY 2019, agencies within the Departments of Commerce, Interior, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, and Health and Human Services, as well as five independent agencies reported over 375 marine mammal research projects for a combined total of $97.74 million  (Figure 1). When combined, four agencies account for over 88% of this total (or $86.57M): the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Navy, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

The Commerce Department’s NOAA accounted for 37% ($36.60M) of the total $97.74M. Within NOAA, the National Marine Fisheries Service, responsible for research and management of cetaceans and pinnipeds, accounted for nearly 98% of its total contribution. Responsibility for the other marine mammals (manatees, polar bears, sea otters, and walruses) belongs to the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which provided $1.67M (2%) and $4.93M (5%), respectively. Together, these three agencies, which have lead regulatory, research, and management responsibility to ensure the conservation of all marine mammals, accounted for 44% ($43.20M) of the total funding reported. Of the $20.23M (21% of total funding) reported by NSF, almost all (93.23%) was attributed to the Office of Polar Programs, which funds research on Arctic and Antarctic marine mammals. Both the Navy (20% of total funding) and BOEM (10% of total funding) are responsible for research on, and mitigation of, the impact of their activities and policies affecting marine mammals. The National Institutes of Health and Environmental Protection Agency reported no funding of marine mammal research projects in FY 2019.

Survey FFR FY19 Results By_Agency

Figure 1. Amounts rounded to the nearest $10K. The “Other” category includes agencies that each account for <1% of the total federal funding: Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program ($950K), National Park Service ($640K), Smithsonian Institution ($600K), US Coast Guard ($230K), US Army Corps of Engineers ($230K), Marine Mammal Commission ($170K), Bureau of Land Management ($150K), Army ($50K), and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy ($10K).

Funding by Research Objective

For each project reported, respondents identified the specific project objectives from a detailed drop-down list organized under 12 over-arching research objectives.  Table 1 shows the total funding for each of these 12 over-arching research objectives. To see the list of sub-category project objectives and funding reported under each, click here. In FY 2019, over $20M in funding was reported for both Stock Assessment and Population Dynamics and Ecology. Funding in excess of $10M was reported for two objectives, Technology Development and Biology.

Survey FFR FY19 Results By Objective_High_Level

Table 1. Amounts rounded to the nearest $1K. To see the list of sub-category objectives, click here.

Funding by Species

For each project reported to the survey, the total funding amount was allocated across individual focal species by the reporting agency. Of the 134 living and recently extinct marine mammal species, 82 were named as focal species in FY 2019 projects. Figure 2 shows the species for which funding was reported at $1M or greater. If a project did not have focal species or surveyed many (>10) species, it was reported as a multi-species project, and funds were not allocated across individual species. Multi-species projects totaled $28.26M, or about 29% of the total. The highest funding was reported for humpback whales ($9.48M), followed by Weddell seals ($5.91M), North Atlantic right whales ($4.36M), and polar bears ($3.90M).

Survey FFR FY19 Results By_Species

Figure 2. Amounts rounded to the nearest $1K. 1Only those species funded at $1M or greater are shown here. 2If a project did not have focal species or surveyed many (>10) species, it was reported as a multi-species project, and the total funds were not divided among individual species.


The Marine Mammal Commission would like to thank the federal agencies that participated in the survey for their efforts to provide accurate information on their marine mammal research activities and funding, and gratefully acknowledges the time and effort contributed to the survey by the coordinators and respondents from those agencies.  In addition, the Commission greatly appreciates the engagement and agency feedback provided throughout the process of revising the online data collection system; these comments have improved the survey and its usefulness substantially. Finally, the Commission acknowledges the exemplary work of Eastern Research Group, Inc., in helping the Commission revise and launch the survey system used for the FY 2019 data call. Comments on this report and/or the survey are welcome and should be submitted to the Commission at

Data Notice

The data displayed on this web page were downloaded from the survey system on 28 July 2020 by which time the Commission had completed a thorough quality assurance/control process for the FY2019 data reported at that time. However, respondents are still able to access and update their data and, as such, results presented here may not reflect the most current information available. Please contact the Commission at if you have any questions or for confirmation about the accuracy of the data presented here, before citing any results.

Suggested Citation: U.S. Marine Mammal Commission. (2020). “Survey of Federally Funded Marine Mammal Research: FY 2019 Results Summary.” Retrieved Month DD, YYYY, from