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What is the Marine Mammal Laboratory?

The Marine Mammal Laboratory (MML) is a division of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (NMFS, NOAA, DOC).  MML staff are based in Seattle Washington.

MML is primarily responsible for research on marine mammals and their interaction with fisheries in the waters off Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California. Research includes life histories and population dynamics of cetaceans and pinnipeds. Scientists of MML provide information and recommendations to meet required regional, national, and international commitments under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

What kinds of programs does MML have?

MML has five research programs:

Alaska Ecosystems

In the Alaska Ecosystems Program, MML scientists are studying the depleted populations of northern fur seals and two stocks of Steller sea lions (one of which has been declining for over 20 years).   Scientists from this program investigate the impact of fisheries on the species by examining food habits, incidental take, entanglement, and possible ecosystem alteration.

Would you like to learn more about MML's Alaska Ecosystems program?

Polar Ecosystems

This program conducts research on the ecology, biology, and behavior of pinnipeds in Arctic and Antarctic marine ecosystems. A special focus of this program is on ice seals (for example, ringed, ribbon, bearded, and spotted seals in the Arctic; crabeater, leopard, and Ross seals) in the Antarctic and the factors that influence these populations' status and trends. Research on the status of ice seals in the Arctic is important because of the large number of animals killed annually by Native Alaskan subsistence hunters.

Would you like to learn more about MML's Polar Ecosystems program?

Cetacean Assessment and Ecology

The Cetacean Assessment & Ecology Program of MML has primary responsibility regarding the status of a number of cetacean species including beluga, gray, killer and humpback whales, harbor porpoise, and bowhead whales. MML staff provides biological data to the International Whaling Commission on the recovery of the bowhead whale, gray whale, and humpback whale populations.  Surveys to determine and track abundances are conducted regularly to provide managers with the information needed to make sure that interactivities with commercial fisheries are not adversely affecting any stocks of cetaceans in Alaska waters.

Would you like to learn more about MML's Cetacean Assessment program?

California Current Ecosystems

California Current Ecosystem Program MML staff study pinniped and cetacean community ecology and the effects of interactions with fisheries to determine the level of competition between marine predators and fishing activities in waters off Oregon and Washington. Most pinniped populations along the U.S. west coast are growing, quite rapidly. Harbor seal and California sea lions in the California Current rely heavily on Pacific whiting, herring, anchovy, and rockfish as food resources. Individual studies within this MML research program address such issues as steelhead predation by "Herschel," the sea lion at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle; California sea lion and harbor seal predation on endangered stocks of Northwest salmon; and incidental take pinnipeds and harbor porpoise in Washington fisheries.

Would you like to learn more about MML's California Current program?

Systemic Management Studies

MML's Systemic Management Studies Program develops and provides scientific advice on ecosystem management with regard to management of renewable resources.  For example, the percentage of any one prey species eaten by an individual marine mammal species is being used as an empirical example of sustainable consumption rates that commercial fisheries could mimic. 

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This portion of the MML website is intended for a student audience and their educators.
Information within the education website should not be cited in scientific journals or publications.


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