Marine Mammal Commission

FY 2020 Results Summary


This web page summarizes the preliminary results of the Marine Mammal Commission’s (the Commission) Survey of Federally Funded Marine Mammal Research (the Survey) for fiscal year (FY) 2020. 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 contains information about federal funding sources, it 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 2020 funding by agency, project objective, and species. The total funding amount for each project was rounded to the nearest $10,000 when reported except for projects funded at or below $5,000, which were rounded to $5,000. Requests for additional information or details about federal marine mammal research and funding reported in FY 2020 Survey can be made by contacting the Commission at


Funding by Agency

For FY 2020, agencies within the Departments of Commerce, Interior, Defense, and Homeland Security, as well as four independent agencies reported funding over 360 marine mammal projects for a combined total of $82.25 million (Figure 1). Funding provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Navy accounted for almost 70% ($56.95M) of the total federal funding for marine mammal research. Projects sponsored by NOAA, an agency within the Department of Commerce, accounted for 43% ($35.60M) of the total federal funding. Within NOAA, projects sponsored by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the line office responsible for research and management of cetaceans and pinnipeds, accounted for nearly 99% of NOAA’s total contribution to federally funded marine mammal research. Responsibility for the research and management of manatees, polar bears, sea otters, and walruses falls to agencies within the Department of the Interior: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Projects sponsored by the FWS and USGS accounted for 3% and 5% of the federal funding of marine mammal research respectively. Together, these three agencies (NOAA, FWS, USGS), which have lead regulatory, research, and management responsibility to ensure the conservation of all marine mammals within US jurisdiction, provided almost 52% ($42.43M) of the total federal funding reported for FY 2020. The National Science Foundation (NSF) reported $8.67M (11% of total funding), of which 90.1% was attributed to the Office of Polar Programs, which funds research on Arctic and Antarctic marine mammals. Both the Navy (26% of total funding) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM, 5% 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, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Energy reported no funding allocated to marine mammal research projects in FY 2020.

Survey FFR FY20 Results By_Agency

Figure 1. Amounts rounded to the nearest $10K. The “Other” category includes agencies that each account for less than 2% of the total federal funding: Smithsonian Institution ($1.2M), National Parks Service ($450K), Marine Mammal Commission ($250K), United States Coast Guard ($240K), Bureau of Land Management ($90K), and Army Corp of Engineers ($4K).

Funding by Research Objective

For each project reported to the Survey, respondents identified the specific project objectives from 12 high-level categories that each contained various sub-categories. Table 1 shows the total funding for each of the 12 high-level research objectives. To see the list of sub-category project objectives and the funding amounts reported under each, click here. In FY 2020, over $20M in funding was reported for Stock Assessment and Population Dynamics, approximately $15M was reported for Ecology, and a little over $10M was reported for Technology Development.

Survey FFR FY20 Results By Objective_High_Level

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

Funding by Species

For each project reported to the Survey, the total funding amount of the project was allocated across individual focal species by the reporting agency. Of the 134 living and recently extinct marine mammal species, 75 were named as focal species in FY 2020 projects. Figure 2 shows the species for which total funding was reported at $1M or greater. If a project did not have focal species or surveyed more than 10 species, it was reported as a multi-species project and funds were not allocated across individual species. Multi-species projects totaled $28.01M, or about 34% of the total funding amount. Species with the greatest amount of total funding reported were North Atlantic right whales ($6.37M), humpback whales ($4.12M), Steller sea lions ($3.56M), and Northern fur seals ($3.12M).

Survey FFR FY20 Results By_Species

Figure 2. Amounts rounded to the nearest $1K. 1Only those species funded at $1M or greater shown here. 2If a project did not have focal species or surveyed 10 or more species, it was reported as a multi-species project, and funds were not allocated across individual species.


The Marine Mammal Commission would like to thank the federal agencies who 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 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 and continued assistance with system maintenance. Comments on this summary report or the Survey are welcome and can be submitted to the Commission at

Data Notice

The data displayed on this web page were downloaded from the survey system on 04 April 2021. The Commission is still working with a few survey respondents to resolve discrepancies revealed during the quality assurance/control process. Until this process is complete all results remain subject to change. Please contact the Commission at for further details before citing any results.

Suggested Citation: U.S. Marine Mammal Commission. (2021). “Survey of Federally Funded Marine Mammal Research: FY 2020 Results Summary.” Retrieved Month DD, YYYY, from