Marine Mammal Commission

Commission Factsheets

The Marine Mammal Commission has published informational factsheets to communicate complex issues related to marine mammal science and management. While they are not comprehensive, factsheets serve to present key points about a topic in a clear, concise, and easy-to-understand way. Visit the blue links embedded  or click the image associated with each factsheet below. To learn more about the Commission’s work, visit our Priority Topics webpage.

Factsheets that have been created from 2018-present are available below for download, organized alphabetically.

Climate Change and the Arctic – Alaska Native Subsistence Hunting

Arctic climate change is threatening the food security, safety, and health of Alaska Natives who rely on marine mammals. The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) recognizes the importance of subsistence hunting and cultural practices by Alaska Natives. Through a process called co-management, Alaska Native Organizations partner with federal agencies to ensure the conservation of marine mammals and their sustainable subsistence use by Alaska Natives.

Learn more about Alaska Native subsistence hunting and climate change .

Climate Change – Distribution Shifts

Climate change and warming temperatures are resulting in changes in marine mammal distribution. Changes in marine mammal distribution may be in response to ecosystem changes (e.g., prey availability, habitat loss) and may expose species to new threats and ecological conditions. The North Atlantic right whale is exemplary of climate change induced distribution shifts and the management issues that can result from a shift.

Learn more about climate change and marine mammal distribution shifts.

Climate Change – Habitat Loss

Marine mammal habitat is being lost due to climate change in the United States. Sea level rise and storms lead to erosion and inundation of shoreline habitat. Reduced Arctic sea ice affects polar bears, walrus, and ice-dependent seals. The Hawaiian monk seal is also experiencing habitat loss, indicative of the changes occurring across at all latitudes.

Learn more about climate change and marine mammal habitat loss.

Climate Change – Health and Strandings

Examination of stranded marine mammals has detected biotoxins, infectious agents and pathologies that are influenced by climate change. Temporally- and spatially-structured surveillance is needed to increase our understanding of the effects of climate change on marine mammal health. Without greater investment in marine mammal health and disease surveillance, climate change effects on ocean and human health could go undetected, and mitigation measures cannot be developed.

Learn more about climate change and marine mammal health and strandings.

Climate Change – Stock Assessments

The MMPA stock assessment process was primarily designed to address direct human-caused mortality and serious injury of marine mammals, such as incidental take by fisheries. It does not explicitly take account of indirect threats such as climate change. Yet climate change has the potential to alter every element of the Stock Assessment Reports for marine mammals.

Learn more about climate change and marine mammal stock assessments.

Co-management of Marine Mammals in Alaska

Marine mammals have long been essential to Alaska Native subsistence, culture and way of life. Recognizing this, Congress included an Alaska Native Exemption in the MMPA that allows Alaska Natives to take marine mammals for subsistence purposes and for creating and selling authentic native articles of handicrafts and clothing, provided that the take is not accomplished in a wasteful manner.

Learn more about co-management of marine mammals in Alaska.

Co-management of Marine Mammals – Commission Review

The overall goal of this project was to strengthen co-management relationships in Alaska and improve the conservation and sustainability of marine mammals in a region where they are of critical ecological, social, and nutritional importance. To achieve the project objectives, we assembled a Steering Committee comprised of Alaska Natives and federal resource managers to guide the project and provide advice on engagement of co-management partners and community members.

Learn more about the case study-based review project.

North Atlantic Right Whales: Common Misconceptions

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered species of large whale with fewer than 350 whales remaining. The primary causes of mortality and injury to these whales are entanglements in fishing gear and strikes by vessels. Efforts to mitigate threats are ongoing and impact a wide range of stakeholders. Ensuring all stakeholders have access to accurate information is essential as these efforts continue to move forward.

Learn more about North Atlantic right whale misconceptions.

Offshore Wind Development and Marine Mammals

The Biden Administration has established a national goal of deploying 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power by 2030. As we work to achieve that goal, care must be taken to minimize the impacts of wind energy development on marine mammals and other marine resources to ensure an environmentally responsible energy source into the future.

Learn more about offshore wind development and marine mammals.

Recommendations on Alaskan Arctic Coast Port Access Route Study

With accelerating loss of seasonal sea ice in the Arctic, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) sought input  in 2020 on routing measures that would minimize impacts of increased shipping on marine mammals and the Alaska Native communities that depend on marine mammals and the marine ecosystem for food security and sovereignty. The Commission provided detailed comments and recommended routing measures to this Alaskan Arctic Coast Port Access Route Study.

Learn more about the Commission’s recommendations.

Sea Otter Conservation and Reintroduction

After near-extirpation from hunting in the 1700s, northern sea otters were used for reintroductions in southeast Alaska and the outer coasts of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon in the late 1960s/early 1970s. While successful elsewhere, the relocated sea otters did not become established in Oregon, and sea otters remain absent from the coasts of Oregon and northern California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently studied the cost and feasibility of reintroducing sea otters to Oregon and northern California.

Learn more about sea otter conservation and reintroduction.

Survey of Federally Funded Marine Mammal Research – Fiscal Year 2022

The Survey of Federally Funded Marine Mammal Research (the Survey) is an online survey and data repository. It provides federal funding information on marine mammal research by agency, species, objective, and location. The Survey aids the Commission  in fulfilling its duties under the MMPA by helping identify gaps in research effort or funding, illuminate areas of strength in federal research investment, and inform recommendations on needed agency actions and budget priorities.

Learn more about the Fiscal Year 2022 Results Summary.