Marine Mammal Commission

About the Commission

Our Mission

To provide independent, science-based oversight of domestic and international policies and actions of federal agencies addressing human impacts on marine mammals and their ecosystems.

Learn more about our duties under the MMPA.

Humpbacks breaching

Humpbacks breach more than any other whale. It is unknown exactly why they do this so frequently, but some scientists believe the impact of hitting the water could be a way to remove skin parasites. Others think it might be a form of social interaction or play. (NOAA)

The Marine Mammal Commission is an independent government agency charged by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to further the conservation of marine mammals and their environment. We work to ensure that marine mammal populations are restored and maintained as functioning elements of healthy marine ecosystems in the world’s oceans. We provide science-based oversight of domestic and international policies and actions of federal agencies with mandates to address human impacts on marine mammals and their ecosystems. Our role is unique—we are the only U.S. government agency that provides comprehensive oversight of all science, policy, and management actions affecting marine mammals.

Who We Are

The Commission consists of three Commissioners appointed by the President, a nine-member Committee of Scientific Advisors, and 14 employees.

To learn more, meet our Commissioners, Scientific Advisors, and staff.

What We Do

We provide oversight of all science, policy, and management actions affecting marine mammals for just about one penny per American per year. Click here to view graphic above.

As an independent oversight agency, we are positioned to affect the evolution of policy decisions and help develop consensus among competing interests on controversial issues surrounding marine mammal science and conservation. We review proposed actions by federal agencies and others and provide recommendations to minimize the impacts of such actions on marine mammals and their environment.

Multiple human-related risk factors affect marine mammals, including direct and indirect effects of fisheries, underwater sound, contaminants and disease, harmful algal blooms and dead zones, vessel strikes, and impacts of climate change. We regularly consult with other federal agencies to understand, monitor, and mitigate these risk factors. Our work is centered on five strategic goals outlined in our FY2022–2026 Strategic Plan, and we pay special attention to species considered to be most vulnerable to human-related activities.

We carry out several activities to help ensure that the protection and conservation of marine mammals is reflected in a wide array of actions. Such activities include:

  • reviewing permit and incidental take authorization applications, proposed regulations, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents (e.g., draft environmental assessments and impact statements), and Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing proposals;
  • developing and/or reviewing marine mammal policy and guidance documents;
  • producing periodic reports of particular importance to the conservation of marine mammals and maintenance of healthy ecosystems for Congress and relevant agencies;
  • reviewing results of research, providing funding for research, and identifying significant gaps in research and seeking ways to close such gaps;
  • participating in scientific and policy organizations and meetings, both domestic and international; and
  • conducting the Commission’s Annual Meeting and producing reports on an annual basis highlighting the Commission’s performance and accomplishments.

Although not a regulatory agency, the Commission’s comments must be taken into consideration by the relevant action agencies. Should an agency choose to not follow the Commission’s recommendations, it must provide a rationale for taking a different approach.

We provide comments and recommendations regarding marine mammal protection and conservation to federal agencies and others through regular contact and meetings, as well as through formal letters. In these letters, we identify actions that agencies could take to conserve and manage marine mammals.

We are also periodically called upon to brief Capitol Hill staff and, less frequently, to present testimony to Congress regarding marine mammal protection and conservation issues.

Cross-Agency Collaborations

The Commission helps develop and coordinate multi-agency research and management initiatives to facilitate marine mammal protection and conservation, working closely with those agencies most directly carrying out the mandate of the MMPA. Key partners include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and National Ocean Service (NOS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) of the Department of Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). We also work closely with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and other branches of the military on their activities that may impact marine mammals and their habitats.

Florida manatee

Florida manatee. (NOAA)

Collaboration regularly involves support and coordination on basic research. Through our grants and research program, we seek to identify key research priorities and help coordinate this work to eliminate duplication and ensure effective use of scarce research funds. We also work to ensure that scientific results are rigorously reviewed and used in management to develop, improve, or evaluate mitigation measures to benefit marine mammals.

Learn More about the Marine Mammal Commission

About the Commission: One-Page Infographic

About the Commission: One-Page Handout

2022 Annual Report

FY 2022–2026 Strategic Plan

Contact Us

To learn more about the Commission and our work, sign up for our e-newsletter and follow us on Twitter.

Research Program – Proposal Requirements

Fiscal Year 2024 Grants

***CLOSED***

Fiscal Year  2024 Request for Proposals 

Intent to submit deadline: Wednesday, January 31st 2024 

Proposal deadline: Wednesday, February 14th 2024 11:59pm EST

Applicant notification: by Wednesday, July 31st 2024

Proposal Requirements

Proposed projects must fit within our current funding opportunity and adhere to all proposal requirements.  The body of the proposal must not exceed five pages using 12-point font, exclusive of cover page, references, budget, curricula vitae, and supporting materials.

Cover Page (limit 1 page)

  • Title: The full title of the proposal. A shorter running title is optional.
  • Principal Investigator (PI): Please list only one (corresponding) principal investigator even if your proposal team consists of two or more co-equal investigators and institutions (also see instructions for Curricula Vitae).
  • PI Contact Information: Address, phone, website, and e-mail for the principal investigator.
  • Financial Point of Contact (POC): An individual (with or without institutional affiliation, as appropriate) who will be responsible for contractual and fiscal matters. This may or may not be the same individual and institution listed as principal investigator.
  • Financial POC Information: Address, phone, and e-mail.
  • Topic and Focus Area (if appropriate): Please indicate whether the proposal fits the Topic A or Topic B funding opportunity. If applying under Topic A, indicate which focal area (1 or 2) your proposal best fits. Select the best fit focal area (or topic) if your proposal fits more than one.

Proposal Body (limit 5 pages)

  • Abstract: Provide an abstract summarizing the project objective(s), and how the project will either: A) further our ability to detect ecosystem changes and understand the impact of such changes on marine mammal populations, or B) advance diversity, equity, inclusiveness, belonging, accessibility, and justice (DEIBAJ) in marine mammal science. For Topic A proposals focused on marine mammal health in a changing climate (focal area 1), briefly describe which health parameters the project addresses and how the project will improve our understanding of the effects of climate change on marine mammal population health. For focal area 2, identify how the project will increase our understanding of changes in marine mammal distribution or habitat driven by climate change. For Topic B proposals, briefly describe how the project will broaden participation, engage diverse learners, foster pathways, and develop leadership opportunities for historically underserved and underrepresented communities in marine mammal science. Please limit the abstract to 300 words.
  • Introduction, Background, or Problem Statement: Introduce and provide background on the topic of the proposed project. Provide a brief review of prior related efforts by the research team or others. Indicate knowledge gaps, shortfalls of previous efforts, or challenges to further progress and describe how the proposed effort will address these issues.  Describe the importance of the proposed work, and how it addresses the topic and focal area, if applicable, selected.
  • Goals and Objectives: Provide statements of both the general or broad goal of the proposed project and the specific objectives that will be addressed within the scope of this proposal to make progress toward that goal.  Provide your view of the importance or significance of the project, and how it relates to the Commission’s mission and goals.
  • Methods/Approach: Provide a detailed description of the approach and methods, including methods for data analysis, so that the reviewer can understand how you will address the specific objectives of the project. If applicable, describe any new methods or tools that will be developed, and any long-term data or time series samples to be used or contributed to. If you are not conducting original research but are developing a workshop, review panel, or other activity; describe the nature of the activity, the planned agenda or working format, likely attendees/participants, tentative dates and location of the planned activity, and how success of the activity will be measured.
  • Anticipated Outcomes: Describe the short-term products and outcomes, those anticipated to occur within the scope of the effort and time span of the proposed project (e.g. one or more peer-reviewed journal articles, development of an assay or method, an equipment prototype and report, completion of a workshop report).
  • Research and Management Utility or Plans for Continuity of Newly Established Approaches: For Topic A proposals, describe the anticipated long-term utility of the project, any implications for future research and how it will contribute to future marine mammal population monitoring, surveillance, management, or conservation. For Topic B proposals, describe how the project will help to establish opportunities for individuals, and the potential for affecting long-term change.
  • Research Permits: Specify whether permits or authorizations and/or Animal Care and Use approvals are necessary. If necessary to conduct the proposed research, provide details regarding whether permits or authorizations and/or Animal Care and Use approvals have been obtained. If necessary permits, authorizations, and approvals are pending, provide the status for obtaining them and when they are expected to be issued.
  • Data management and accessibility: The Commission is committed to ensuring that the results of federally funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community, as described in the February 2013 Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Memorandum on Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research, as well as the subsequent August 2022 OSTP Memorandum on Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research. Briefly describe how and when results and supporting data from the proposed project are expected to be shared. This should include plans for making publications or final documents accessible for the public free of charge, and for sharing of digital data and metadata resulting from research through an accessible data platform.

Budget and Time Line (limit 2 pages)

This section should provide sufficient detail to inform the reviewer of expenses or costs by general category (salary, equipment, supplies, travel, publication fees, overhead costs, miscellaneous) and by subtasks within the proposed effort, as appropriate. Include information on other sources of funding for the project, if applicable. For multi-year or multi-stage projects, include a timetable for completion of each phase as a means of gauging progress toward completion of the full proposed effort.

Curricula Vitae, Research Team Qualifications (limit 3 pages each CV)

Provide a curriculum vitae or short biography of no more than three pages for all key members of the proposal team (those individuals whose background and experience are essential to completion of the project), including their experience or expertise related to the subject proposal. Although there can be only one corresponding principal investigator (see Title Page guidance), multiple co-investigators can be included in this portion of the proposal, if desired.

Supporting Materials (Optional)

Supporting materials such as recent publications, short descriptions of relevant work in progress or recently completed, organization charts or timelines will be accepted but should be limited to information essential to understanding the significance, approach, and context of the proposed work. It is highly recommended that supporting materials be limited to fewer than 15 pages or 5 Mb: the more material provided, the more difficult it will be for the reviewers to focus their attention on relevant matters in developing their evaluations. Only include supporting materials that are directly relevant to understanding and evaluating the proposed project.

Submission Procedure

Killer whales

Southern Resident Killer Whales are endangered, and environmental factors such as prey availability and pollution threaten the health of this population. (Holly Fearnbach, NOAA)

Please read the current funding opportunities and proposal requirements pages in full before applying.

Applicants must email rpo@mmc.gov no later than 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time, January 31, 2024, stating their intent to submit a full proposal by the proposal deadline. The “intent email” is required for applicants to receive a link to a personalized proposal submission folder.

Full proposals must be submitted through the link to the applicant’s personalized submission folder no later than 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time, February 14, 2024.

Full proposals emailed to rpo@mmc.gov will not be accepted.

Proposals must adhere to the instructions and requirements described above. Proposals should be submitted electronically in MS Word or Adobe PDF format. All applicants are required to have a current registration and a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) in the System for Award Management (SAM) prior to submitting an application. Note: as of April 4, 2022, the UEI has replaced the DUNS number as the official unique identifier for entities doing business with the U.S. government.

Policy on Indirect Costs

The Commission recognizes the significant costs associated with the maintenance of research programs and the institutions that support them. However, due to the limited funding available for research and conservation awards and the nature of the Commission’s goals and responsibilities, the Commission limits indirect costs for research grants and contracts awarded by the Commission to ten percent (10%) of the direct costs unless the submitting entity already has a federally negotiated indirect cost rate. Indirect costs, or overhead, include, but are not limited to, operation and maintenance of facilities, general and departmental administration, and library expenses.

Eligibility

Applicants from both within the U.S. as well as outside the U.S. are eligible to apply, including both non-U.S. citizens and those affiliated with non-U.S. institutions.

Current Funding Opportunities

Fiscal Year 2024 Grants

***CLOSED***

Fiscal Year  2024 Request for Proposals 

Intent to submit deadline: Wednesday, January 31st 2024

Proposal deadline: Wednesday, February 14th 2024 11:59pm EST

Applicant notification: by Wednesday, July 31st 2024

Funding Opportunities in Fiscal Year 2024

The Marine Mammal Commission is accepting proposals between December 06, 2023 and February 14, 2024 for projects focused on A) marine mammals in a changing climate; or B) advancing diversity, equity, inclusiveness, belonging, accessibility, and justice (DEIBAJ) in marine mammal science. Funding requests are limited to $60,000 USD.

*** Those wishing to submit a proposal must email rpo@mmc.gov no later than Wednesday, January 31, 2024 stating their intent to submit a full proposal by the proposal submission deadline.***

***Full proposal submission deadline: 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time, Wednesday, February 14, 2024***

Please see the submission procedures section on the proposal requirements page for instructions.

Topic A: Marine Mammals in a Changing Climate

Background

The Marine Mammal Commission’s mission is to further the goals of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), 16 U.S.C. § 1361 et sec. These include restoring and maintaining marine mammal populations as significant functioning elements of healthy marine ecosystems. However, the dynamic nature of ecosystems can make assessing and attaining these goals challenging, particularly in the face of global climate change. Oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. These changes are driving range and distribution shifts of many marine species and disrupting ecosystem processes and functions. Detecting ecosystem changes and understanding the impact of such changes on marine mammal populations is essential to developing effective conservation and management response plans, and is a priority for the Marine Mammal Commission.

Building on previous years’ efforts, the Commission is accepting proposals under this topic focused in two areas.

Topic A Focal Areas

1. Marine mammal health in a changing climate

Climate-driven changes in ecosystems are expected to alter the exposure of marine mammals to pathogens and toxins, and change prey availability, abundance, or quality. These changes in exposure could lead to nutritional stress, compromised immune systems, or other impacts on health, and ultimately can affect population vital rates. Increased capacity to detect changes in marine mammal population health and understand the underlying factors and processes contributing to those changes is critically needed to identify possible actions to respond to and mitigate impacts. Under topic area 1, the Commission seeks proposals that improve our understanding of the effects of climate change on the health of marine mammal populations. 

2. Changes in marine mammal distribution or habitat associated with a changing climate

Climate-change driven alterations in ecosystems may lead to shifts in marine mammal distribution, range, phenology, or migration routes, and may alter the availability of prey or change exposure to predation or human activities. Under topic area 2, the Commission seeks proposals that increase our understanding of changes in marine mammal distribution or habitat driven by climate change.

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Understanding the effects of climate change requires longitudinal and cross-disciplinary data. Therefore, for both topic A focal areas, we encourage submission of proposals that demonstrate use of, or contribute to, long-term datasets, archives, or repositories that are available and accessible to other users. Projects that include the development or application of innovative tools for assessing health, as well as changes in distribution or habitat, to support long-term monitoring are also encouraged, and projects that link marine mammal health data in partnership with U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Regional Associations’ analytical data, tools, and products, will be favorably considered. If you are interested in a partnership with IOOS, please contact the appropriate Regional Association no fewer than 4-6 weeks prior to the proposal submission deadline.

Topic B: Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusiveness, Belonging, Accessibility and Justice (DEIBAJ) in Marine Mammal Science

Background

There continues to be a lack of diversity among those engaged in marine mammal research and management. Economic and other barriers have limited accessibility to marine sciences in general, and exist at all stages of learning and career development. Diversity fosters innovation, and investing and engaging in diversity and inclusion as a whole is beneficial for addressing complex issues in marine mammal science and conservation. Diverse narratives and perspectives from the inclusion of all races, gender identities, sexual orientations, physical abilities, ages, stages of careers, and general backgrounds improve the collective opportunity to be more innovative, effective, and equitable in the field of marine mammal science. The Commission is committed to advancing opportunities that increase diversity, equity, inclusiveness, belonging, accessibility, and justice (DEIBAJ) in the field of marine mammal science.

The Commission seeks proposals that broaden participation, engage diverse learners, foster pathways, and develop leadership opportunities for historically underserved and underrepresented communities in marine mammal science. Topic B proposals will create or support DEIBAJ initiatives within the fields of marine mammal science. For example, within a marine mammal research group or institution, or a community-based non-profit, Topic B funding could support DEIBAJ initiatives such as cultivating an accessible, inclusive, and equitable working environment, providing mentor/mentee training or professional development opportunities, or developing paid internship programs. These are only a few examples, and we encourage applicants to think broadly and intentionally about DEIBAJ initiatives.

Eligibility:

Applicants from within the U.S. and outside the U.S. are eligible to apply, including both non-U.S. citizens and those affiliated with non-U.S. institutions.

At the time of posting, the U.S. Federal Government is working under a continuing resolution. Availability of funds to support research is dependent on passage of a final budget for the Commission.

Proposal Requirements and Submission Information

Information on proposal requirements and submission procedures is available on the proposal requirements page. Please review and follow this information carefully. Applicants should note there is a new process for proposal submission, which includes sending an email no later than January 31, 2024 to rpo@mmc.gov stating
their intent to submit a proposal in order to receive a link to a personalized proposal submission folder. Proposals that are submitted after the deadline or do not meet the requirements will not be evaluated or considered for funding.

Proposal Evaluation

All proposals will be evaluated with respect to: the importance or significance of the type of project proposed,1 its relevance to the current funding opportunity and focal area 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. Review and selection of applications will be based on a detailed evaluation of these criteria and recommendations for funding. Awards are subject to the availability of funds.
Potential applicants may contact Dee Allen, Scientific Program Officer, by e-mail (dallen@mmc.gov) 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 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 assign 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.
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  1. For example, would such a project significantly advance critical scientific understanding, contribute to the development of an innovative method or technology, lead to groundbreaking policy ideas, or catalyze critical thinking through a meeting, workshop or symposium?
  2. Mission: Provide independent, science-based oversight of domestic and international policies and actions, thereby promoting effective implementation of the MMPA and its goals of protecting and conserving marine mammals and their habitat. Strategic Goal: Improve Population Assessment and Health Surveillance. Our goal is to improve the availability and quality of data, scientific assessments, and information necessary for marine mammal conservation and management programs, especially in the face of climate change.
  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?

 

Our Mission

In 1972, the MMPA established the Marine Mammal Commission to provide independent oversight of the marine mammal conservation policies and programs being carried out by federal regulatory agencies.

Harbor seals on ice

Harbor seals on ice. (NOAA Fisheries)

The Marine Mammal Commission provides independent, science-based oversight of domestic and international policies and actions of federal agencies addressing human impacts on marine mammals and their ecosystems. Our mission is largely driven by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The MMPA was enacted in October 1972 in partial response to growing concerns among scientists and the general public that certain species and populations of marine mammals were in danger of extinction or depletion as a result of human activities. The MMPA set forth a national policy to prevent marine mammal species and population stocks from diminishing beyond the point at which they cease to be significant functioning elements of the ecosystems of which they are a part.

Duties under the MMPA

Our role is unique

We are the only U.S. government agency that provides comprehensive oversight of all science, policy, and management actions affecting marine mammals.

The Commission is charged with the following seven duties, as defined under section 202 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA):

  1. undertake a review and study of the activities of the United States pursuant to existing laws and international conventions relating to marine mammals including, but not limited to, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, the Whaling Convention Act of 1949, the Interim Convention on the Conservation of North Pacific Fur Seals, and the Fur Seal Act of 1966;
  2. conduct a continuing review of the condition of the stocks of marine mammals, of methods for their protection and conservation, of humane means of taking marine mammals, of research programs conducted or proposed to be conducted under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and of all applications for permits for scientific research, public display, or enhancing the survival or recovery of a species or stock;
  3. undertake or cause to be undertaken such other studies as it deems necessary or desirable in connection with its assigned duties as to the protection and conservation of marine mammals;
  4. recommend to the Secretary [of Commerce or the Interior] and other federal officials such steps as it deems necessary or desirable for the protection and conservation of marine mammals;
  5. recommend to the Secretary of State appropriate policies regarding existing international arrangements for the protection and conservation of marine mammals, and suggest appropriate international arrangements for the protection and conservation of marine mammals;
  6. recommend to the Secretary [of Commerce or the Interior] such revisions of the endangered species list and threatened species list published pursuant to section 4(c)(1) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as may be appropriate with regard to marine mammals; and
  7. recommend to the Secretary [of Commerce or the Interior], other appropriate federal officials, and Congress such additional measures as it deems necessary or desirable to further the policies of the Act, including provisions for the protection of the Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts whose livelihood may be adversely affected by actions taken pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

In addition to the MMPA, other important legislation has been enacted to protect and conserve marine mammals and their ecosystems.

Learn More about the Marine Mammal Commission

About the Commission: One-Page Infographic

About the Commission: One-Page Handout

2022 Annual Report

FY 2022–2026 Strategic Plan

Contact Us

To learn more about the Commission and our work, sign up for our e-newsletter and follow us on Twitter.