Marine Mammals

2 walrus
A pair of young walrus rest on a rocky beach near Nome.

Marine mammals and their interactions with humans have become increasingly common and complex in the past decade. The public's appreciation and concern for marine mammal conservation have grown with their knowledge and exposure to these unique mammals. Growing whale watching and ecotourism trades have capitalized on this appreciation, creating new potential for both positive and negative marine mammal–human interactions. Alaska Natives have become increasingly active in co-management and research of marine mammals used for subsistence. And Alaska's marine mammal abundance, diversity, and viewing opportunities have formed the foundation for a growing marine tourism industry.

The past decade has seen increased documentation and regulation of marine mammal interactions with commercial fishermen. With the reauthorization of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in 1988, a compromise involving fishing industry and conservation representatives forced the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to better document the nature and extent of marine mammal–fishery interactions and regulate those of greatest biological significance. In addition to reducing incidental marine mammal bycatch, Alaskan fishermen have faced increasing restrictions meant to reduce potential competition with Steller sea lions and other endangered species.

Combined, the public's need for marine mammal information and escalated regulatory complexity have spanned both U.S. coasts but are especially extensive in Alaska. MAP will remain involved in pertinent research efforts, respond to both informal and technical marine mammal questions, and encourage public participation in marine mammal science and conservation.

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Marine mammal information from MAP

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