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Marine Mammals

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Marine Mammal Conservation

Sharon Herzog

COM/172-Elements of University Composition and Communications II

July 28, 2013
Timothy Toole

Marine Mammal Conservation

There are 29 marine mammals on the endangered and threatened list produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The US Fisheries and Wildlife foundation also have a list that includes certain seals, sea otters, and polar bears. There are many threats to marine mammals. These threats include dangers posed by humans and the environment. There are laws in place to help protect marine mammals from further dangers. Captivity has brought forth much controversy as to dangers it may pose to marine mammals. Marine mammal habitat conservation may be the only answer to protecting marine mammal life. There are five characteristic that an animal must possess to be classified as a mammal. These characteristics include being warm-blooded, having hair or fur, having the ability to breathe air through lungs, the ability to bear live young, and the ability to nurse their young with milk produced by mammary glands (The Marine Mammal Center, 2013). Marine mammals also have a thick layer of fat called blubber that they rely on to keep them warm in the water. They have the ability to store up extra oxygen to aid them in staying under water for extended periods of time. Marine mammals spend a lot of time swimming, their bodies are streamlined to help them swim faster. One of the most important characteristics of marine mammals is their ability to direct their blood flow to their heart and lungs and slow their heartbeat down to preserve oxygen when diving (The Marine Mammal Center, 2013). There are five groups of marine mammals. Pinnipeds, Cetaceans, Sirenians, Polar Bears and Sea Otters. The Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists 29 different species on their list as of July 2, 2013. Their list includes threatened and endangered species in the US and foreign species as well (The Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2013). The US Fisheries and Wildlife Administration also lists Polar Bears, Manatees, Sea Otters, and some species of Whales on their list (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013). In 1972 Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Marine Mammal Protection Act is based on the following according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2013), “Some marine mammal species or stocks may be in danger of extinction or depletion as a result of human activities; These species or stocks must not be permitted to fall below their optimal sustainable population level; Measures should be taken to replenish these species or stocks; Marine mammals have proven to be resources of great international significance” (para 1). This was amended in 1994. The following was added according to The NOAA, “Certain exceptions to the take prohibitions, including for small take incidental to specified activities, when access by Alaska Natives to marine mammal subsistence resources can be preserved, and programs and authorization for scientific research; A program to authorize the taking of marine mammals incidental to commercial fishing operations; Preparation of stock assessments for all marine mammal stocks in waters under US jurisdiction; and studies of Pinniped-fishery interactions” (para. 2). There are also international laws in effect to protect marine mammals as well. Unfortunately, there are still many threatened and endangered marine mammals today. There are many threats to marine mammal life. Humans pose a huge threat to these mammals. Fishing nets pose a major threat to marine mammals. Marine mammals who get caught in the nets are often unable to surface for the air they require in order to breath. Fishing nets such as, gill nets, trawling, and drift nets often catch marine mammals and cause them to be towed behind the boat. On occasion, the nets break loose but the marine mammal is still tangled in the net. This causes the mammal to be unable to hunt for food and eat, ultimately killing it by means of starvation (Kidcyber, 2007). Another threat that marine mammals encounter is competition for food. They often find themselves competing with fisheries for the food they eat. Pollution also poses a threat to marine mammal life. Things such as oil spills, poison leaks, dumping in the ocean, and noise all threaten the life of these mammals. Habitat loss is the biggest threat to marine mammal life. Marine ecosystems are experiencing a critically high rate of habitat loss and degradation causing severe losses to marine mammal life (Marbef, 2010). Some of the contributing factors to habitat loss include, land reclamation, sand and gravel extraction, and property development, such as, harbors, ports, and buildings. Habitat loss leads to endangerment and extinction of marine mammals. Negative impacts on marine environments will most likely increase in the future. The increase will mean a greater need for society to understand marine mammals and the environments they reside in (Eastham, 2013). There are two different ways that are explored when discussing how to save marine mammal life from extinction. Many people believe that captivity is the answer to this problem. Captivity involves the holding of marine mammals at facilities to breed with the intentions of repopulating the species. There are many mixed feelings about captivity. Captivity is often not used for the correct reasons. Many places that hold marine mammals captive do not put the mammals first. These mammals are often used for public display and as a means to make profit. Many of the places that promote captivity state that they are used for educational purposes when actually a study found that less than half of them provided any information on marine mammal conservation (The Humane Society, 2009). Marine mammals who are held in captivity are often fed well and kept safe from harm. However, according to The Humane Society, “Fewer than five to ten percent of zoos, dolphin aria, and aquaria are involved in substantial conservation programs either in natural habitat or in captive settings and the amount spent on these programs is a mere fraction of the incomes generated by the facilities” (para. 5). Captivity is also known to reduce the natural life span of marine mammal life, eventually causing a loss of marine mammal species. Conservation is another option for saving marine mammal life from extinction. Conservation refers to restoring the natural habitat of marine mammals either in the wild or in captivity. Marine conservation focuses mainly on limiting-human caused damage to marine ecosystems, and on restoring damaged marine ecosystems. The preferred place is their natural wild surroundings. However, this is not always possible. In times when this would be unfeasible, creating an area similar in all ways to their natural habitat will due. The biggest problem is that places that claim to do this, often do not. By placing marine mammals into their natural surroundings, rather in the wild or in captivity, their life span is increased as well as their health and well-being (The Human Society, 2009). Conservation is the best way to ensure the continuation of marine mammal life in the future. Marine mammals have been protected since 1972 by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. There are also international laws in place to aid in protecting these mammals. Marine mammals face many threats including those from humans, fishing, hunting, and habitat loss. Captivity and Captivity and conservation are two ways known to society to protect marine mammals from extinction. Captivity is often used for the wrong reasons. Many places that house marine mammals in captivity do not promote or use conservation methods for these mammals. Captivity leads to a shortened life span of marine mammals. Conservation is the preferred method of saving marine mammals. This method keeps marine mammals in their natural habitats where they live longer, healthier, happier lives. Perhaps conservation is the only way to ensure the existence of marine mammals in the future.

Eastham, C. (2012). Aquatic Mammals. Retrieved from
Kidcyber. (2007). Whales. Retrieved from
Marbef. (2010). Marine biodiversity wiki. Retrieved from
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2013). Endangered and threatened marine species. Retrieved from The Humane Society. (20069). The case against marine mammals in captivity. Retrieved from
The Marine Mammal Center. (2013). Introduction to marine mammals. Retrieved from

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