Marine mammals are aquatic mammals that rely on the ocean and other marine ecosystems for their existence. They include animals such as seals, whales, manatees, sea otters and polar bears. They do not represent a distinct taxon or systematic grouping, but rather have a polyphyletic relation due to convergent evolution, as in they do not have an immediate common ancestor. They are also unified by their reliance on the marine environment for feeding.
Marine mammal adaptation to an aquatic lifestyle varies considerably between species. Both cetaceans and sirenians are fully aquatic and therefore are obligate water dwellers. Seals and sea-lions are semiaquatic; they spend the majority of their time in the water, but need to return to land for important activities such as mating, breeding and molting. In contrast, both otters and the polar bear are much less adapted to aquatic living. Their diet varies considerably as well; some may eat zooplankton, others may eat fish, squid, shellfish, sea-grass and a few may eat other mammals. While the number of marine mammals is small compared to those found on land, their roles in various ecosystems are large, especially concerning the maintenance of marine ecosystems, through processes including the regulation of prey populations. This role in maintaining ecosystems makes them of particular concern as 23% of marine mammal species are currently threatened.
Marine mammals were first hunted by aboriginal peoples for food and other resources. Many were also the target for commercial industry, leading to a sharp decline in all populations of exploited species, such as whales and seals. Commercial hunting lead to the extinction of †Steller's sea cow, †sea mink, †Japanese sea lion and the †Caribbean monk seal. After commercial hunting ended, some species, such as the gray whale and northern elephant seal, have rebounded in numbers; conversely, other species, such as the North Atlantic right whale, are critically endangered. Other than hunting, marine mammals can be killed as bycatch from fisheries, where they become entangled in fixed netting and drown or starve. Increased ocean traffic causes collisions between fast ocean vessels and large marine mammals. Habitat degradation also threatens marine mammals and their ability to find and catch food. Noise pollution, for example, may adversely affect echolocating mammals, and the ongoing effects of global warming degrade arctic environments.
|Phylogeny of marine mammals|
|The taxa in bold are marine.|
Marine mammals form a diverse group of 129 species that rely on the ocean for their existence. They do not represent a distinct taxon or systematic grouping, but instead have a polyphyletic relationship. They are also unified by their reliance on the marine environment for feeding. Despite the diversity in morphology seen between groups, improved foraging efficiency has been the main driver in their evolution. The level of dependence on the marine environment for existence varies considerably with species. For example, dolphins and whales are completely dependent on the marine environment for all stages of their life; seals feed in the ocean but breed on land; and polar bears must feed on land. Twenty three percent of marine mammal species are threatened.
The cetaceans became aquatic around 50 million years ago (mya). Based on molecular and morphological research, the cetaceans genetically and morphologically fall firmly within the Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates). The term "Cetartiodactyla" reflects the idea that whales evolved within the ungulates. The term was coined by merging the name for the two orders, Cetacea and Artiodactyla, into a single word. Under this definition, the closest living land relative of the whales and dolphins is thought to be the hippopotamuses.
Sirenians, the sea cows, became aquatic around 40 million years ago. The first appearance of sirenians in the fossil record was during the early Eocene, and by the late Eocene, sirenians had significantly diversified. Inhabitants of rivers, estuaries, and nearshore marine waters, they were able to spread rapidly. The most primitive sirenian, †Prorastomus, was found in Jamaica, unlike other marine mammals which originated from the Old World (such as cetaceans). The first known quadrupedal sirenian was †Pezosiren from the early Eocene. The earliest known sea cows, of the families †Prorastomidae and †Protosirenidae, were both confined to the Eocene, and were pig-sized, four-legged, amphibious creatures. The first members of Dugongidae appeared by the end of the Eocene. At this point, sea cows were fully aquatic.
Pinnipeds split from other caniforms 50 mya during the Eocene. Their evolutionary link to terrestrial mammals was unknown until the 2007 discovery of †Puijila darwini in early Miocene deposits in Nunavut, Canada. Like a modern otter, †Puijila had a long tail, short limbs and webbed feet instead of flippers. The lineages of Otariidae (eared seals) and Odobenidae (walrus) split almost 28 mya. Phocids (earless seals) are known to have existed for at least 15 mya, and molecular evidence supports a divergence of the Monachinae (monk seals) and Phocinae lineages 22 mya.
Fossil evidence indicates the sea otter (Enhydra) lineage became isolated in the North Pacific approximately two mya, giving rise to the now-extinct †Enhydra macrodonta and the modern sea otter, Enhydra lutris. The sea otter evolved initially in northern Hokkaidō and Russia, and then spread east to the Aleutian Islands, mainland Alaska, and down the North American coast. In comparison to cetaceans, sirenians, and pinnipeds, which entered the water approximately 50, 40, and 20 mya, respectively, the sea otter is a relative newcomer to marine life. In some respects though, the sea otter is more fully adapted to water than pinnipeds, which must haul out on land or ice to give birth.
Polar bears are thought to have diverged from a population of brown bears, Ursus arctos, that became isolated during a period of glaciation in the Pleistocene or from the eastern part of Siberia, (from Kamchatka and the Kolym Peninsula). The oldest known polar bear fossil is a 130,000 to 110,000-year-old jaw bone, found on Prince Charles Foreland in 2004. The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of the polar bear diverged from the brown bear roughly 150,000 years ago. Further, some clades of brown bear, as assessed by their mtDNA, are more closely related to polar bears than to other brown bears, meaning that the polar bear might not be considered a species under some species concepts.
In general, terrestrial amniote invasions of the sea have become more frequent in the Cenozoic than they were in the Mesozoic. Factors contributing to this trend include the increasing productivity of near-shore marine environments, and the role of endothermy in facilitating this transition.
Marine mammals are widely distributed throughout the globe, but their distribution is patchy and coincides with the productivity of the oceans. Species richness peaks at around 40° latitude, both north and south. This corresponds to the highest levels of primary production around North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. Total species range is highly variable for marine mammal species. On average most marine mammals have ranges which are equivalent or smaller than one-fifth of the Indian Ocean. The variation observed in range size is a result of the different ecological requirements of each species and their ability to cope with a broad range of environmental conditions. The high degree of overlap between marine mammal species richness and areas of human impact on the environment is of concern.
Most marine mammals, such as seals and sea otters, inhabit the coast. Seals, however, also use a number of terrestrial habitats, both continental and island. In temperate and tropical areas, they haul-out on to sandy and pebble beaches, rocky shores, shoals, mud flats, tide pools and in sea caves. Some species also rest on man-made structures, like piers, jetties, buoys and oil platforms. Seals may move further inland and rest in sand dunes or vegetation, and may even climb cliffs.:96 Most cetaceans live in the open ocean, and species like the sperm whale may dive to depths of −1,000 to −2,500 feet (−300 to −760 m) in search of food. Sirenians live in shallow coastal waters, usually living 30 feet (9.1 m) below sea level. However, they have been known to dive to −120 feet (−37 m) to forage deep-water seagrasses. Sea otters live in protected areas, such as rocky shores, kelp forests, and barrier reefs, although they may reside among drift ice or in sandy, muddy, or silty areas.
Many marine mammals seasonally migrate. Annual ice contains areas of water that appear and disappear throughout the year as the weather changes, and seals migrate in response to these changes. In turn, polar bears must follow their prey. In Hudson Bay, James Bay, and some other areas, the ice melts completely each summer (an event often referred to as "ice-floe breakup"), forcing polar bears to go onto land and wait through the months until the next freeze-up. In the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, polar bears retreat each summer to the ice further north that remains frozen year-round. Seals may also migrate to other environmental changes, such as El Niño, and traveling seals may use various features of their environment to reach their destination including geomagnetic fields, water and wind currents, the position of the sun and moon and the taste and temperature of the water.:256–257 Baleen whales famously migrate very long distances into tropical waters to give birth and raise young, possibly to prevent predation by killer whales. The gray whale has the longest recorded migration of any mammal, with one traveling 14,000 miles (23,000 km) from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Baja Peninsula. During the winter, manatees living at the northern end of their range migrate to warmer waters.
Marine mammals have a number of physiological and anatomical features to overcome the unique challenges associated with aquatic living. Some of these features are very species specific. Marine mammals have developed a number of features for efficient locomotion such as torpedo shaped bodies to reduce drag; modified limbs for propulsion and steering; tail flukes and dorsal fins for propulsion and balance. Marine mammals are adept at thermoregulation using dense fur or blubber, circulatory adjustments (counter-current heat exchangers); torpedo shaped bodies, reduced appendages, and large size to prevent heat loss.
Marine mammals are able to dive for long periods of time. Both pinnipeds and cetaceans have large and complex blood vessel systems which serve to store oxygen to support deep diving. Other important reservoirs include muscles, blood, and the spleen which all have the capacity to hold a high concentration of oxygen. They are also capable of bradycardia (reduced heart rate), and vasoconstriction (shunting most of the oxygen to vital organs such as the brain and heart) to allow extended diving times and cope with oxygen deprivation. If oxygen is depleted, marine mammals can access substantial reservoirs of glycogen that support anaerobic glycolysis of the cells involved during conditions of systemic hypoxia associated with prolonged submersion.
Sound travels differently through water, and therefore marine mammals have developed adaptations to ensure effective communication, prey capture, and predator detection. The most notable adaptation is the development of echolocation in whales and dolphins. Toothed whales emit a focused beam of high-frequency clicks in the direction that their head is pointing. Sounds are generated by passing air from the bony nares through the phonic lips.:p. 112 These sounds are reflected by the dense concave bone of the cranium and an air sac at its base. The focused beam is modulated by a large fatty organ known as the 'melon'. This acts like an acoustic lens because it is composed of lipids of differing densities.:121
Marine mammals have evolved a wide variety of features for feeding, which are mainly seen in their dentition. For example, the cheek teeth of pinnipeds and odontocetes are specifically adapted to capture fish and squid. In contrast, baleen whales have evolved baleen plates to filter feed plankton and small fish from the water.
Polar bears, otters, and fur seals have long, oily, and waterproof fur in order to trap air to provide insulation. In contrast, other marine mammals–such as whales, dolphins, porpoises, manatees, dugongs, and walruses–have lost long fur in favor of a thick, dense epidermis and a thickened fat layer (blubber) to prevent drag. Wading and bottom-feeding animals (such as manatees) need to be heavier than water in order to keep contact with the floor or to stay submerged. Surface-living animals (such as sea otters) need the opposite, and free-swimming animals living in open waters (such as dolphins) need to be neutrally buoyant in order to be able to swim up and down the water column. Typically, thick and dense bone is found in bottom feeders and low bone density is associated with mammals living in deep water. Some marine mammals, such as polar bears and otters, have retained four weight-bearing limbs and can walk on land like fully terrestrial animals.
All cetaceans are carnivorous and predatory. Toothed whales mostly feed on fish and cephalopods, followed by crustaceans and bivalves. Some may forage with other kinds of animals, such as other species of whales or certain species of pinnipeds.:169 One common feeding method is herding, where a pod squeezes a school of fish into a small volume, known as a bait ball. Individual members then take turns plowing through the ball, feeding on the stunned fish. Coralling is a method where dolphins chase fish into shallow water to catch them more easily. Killer whales and bottlenose dolphins have also been known to drive their prey onto a beach to feed on it. Killer whales have been known to have paralyzed great white sharks and other sharks and rays by flipping it upside down. Other whales with a blunt snout and reduced dentition rely on suction feeding. Though carnivorous, they house gut flora similar to that of terrestrial herbivores, probably a remnant of their herbivorous ancestry.
Baleen whales use their baleen plates to sieve plankton, among others, out of the water; there are two types of methods: lunge-feeding and gulp-feeding. Lunge-feeders expand the volume of their jaw to a volume bigger than the original volume of the whale itself by inflating their mouth. This causes grooves on their throat to expand, increasing the amount of water the mouth can store. They ram a baitball at high speeds in order to feed, but this is only energy-effective when used against a large baitball. Gulp-feeders swim with an open mouth, filling it with water and prey. Prey must occur in sufficient numbers to trigger the whale's interest, be within a certain size range so that the baleen plates can filter it, and be slow enough so that it cannot escape.
Otters are the only marine animals that are capable of lifting and turning over rocks, which they often do with their front paws when searching for prey. The sea otter may pluck snails and other organisms from kelp and dig deep into underwater mud for clams. It is the only marine mammal that catches fish with its forepaws rather than with its teeth. Under each foreleg, sea otters have a loose pouch of skin that extends across the chest which they use to store collected food to bring to the surface. This pouch also holds a rock that is used to break open shellfish and clams, an example of tool use. The sea otters eat while floating on their backs, using their forepaws to tear food apart and bring to their mouths. Marine otters mainly feed on crustaceans and fish.
Pinnipeds mostly feed on fish and cephalopods, followed by crustaceans and bivalves, and then zooplankton and warm-blooded prey (like sea birds).:145 Most species are generalist feeders, but a few are specialists. They typically hunt non-schooling fish, slow-moving or immobile invertebrates or endothermic prey when in groups. Solitary foraging species usually exploit coastal waters, bays and rivers. When large schools of fish or squid are available, pinnipeds hunt cooperatively in large groups, locating and herding their prey. Some species, such as California and South American sea lions, may forage with cetaceans and sea birds.:168
The polar bear is the most carnivorous species of bear, and its diet primarily consists of ringed (Pusa hispida) and bearded (Erignathus barbatus) seals. Polar bears hunt primarily at the interface between ice, water, and air; they only rarely catch seals on land or in open water. The polar bear's most common hunting method is still-hunting: The bear locates a seal breathing hole using its sense of smell, and crouches nearby for a seal to appear. When the seal exhales, the bear smells its breath, reaches into the hole with a forepaw, and drags it out onto the ice. The polar bear also hunts by stalking seals resting on the ice. Upon spotting a seal, it walks to within 100 yards (90 m), and then crouches. If the seal does not notice, the bear creeps to within 30 to 40 feet (9 to 10 m) of the seal and then suddenly rushes to attack. A third hunting method is to raid the birth lairs that female seals create in the snow. They may also feed on fish.
Sirenians are referred to as "sea cows" because their diet consists mainly of sea-grass. When eating, they ingest the whole plant, including the roots, although when this is impossible they feed on just the leaves. A wide variety of seagrass has been found in dugong stomach contents, and evidence exists they will eat algae when seagrass is scarce. West Indian manatees eat up to 60 different species of plants, as well as fish and small invertebrates to a lesser extent.
Sea otters are a classic example of a keystone species; their presence affects the ecosystem more profoundly than their size and numbers would suggest. They keep the population of certain benthic (sea floor) herbivores, particularly sea urchins, in check. Sea urchins graze on the lower stems of kelp, causing the kelp to drift away and die. Loss of the habitat and nutrients provided by kelp forests leads to profound cascade effects on the marine ecosystem. North Pacific areas that do not have sea otters often turn into urchin barrens, with abundant sea urchins and no kelp forest. Reintroduction of sea otters to British Columbia has led to a dramatic improvement in the health of coastal ecosystems, and similar changes have been observed as sea otter populations recovered in the Aleutian and Commander Islands and the Big Sur coast of California However, some kelp forest ecosystems in California have also thrived without sea otters, with sea urchin populations apparently controlled by other factors. The role of sea otters in maintaining kelp forests has been observed to be more important in areas of open coast than in more protected bays and estuaries.
An apex predator affects prey population dynamics and defense tactics (such as camouflage). The polar bear is the apex predator within its range. Several animal species, particularly Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) and glaucous gulls (Larus hyperboreus), routinely scavenge polar bear kills. The relationship between ringed seals and polar bears is so close that the abundance of ringed seals in some areas appears to regulate the density of polar bears, while polar bear predation in turn regulates density and reproductive success of ringed seals. The evolutionary pressure of polar bear predation on seals probably accounts for some significant differences between Arctic and Antarctic seals. Compared to the Antarctic, where there is no major surface predator, Arctic seals use more breathing holes per individual, appear more restless when hauled out on the ice, and rarely defecate on the ice. The fur of Arctic pups is white, presumably to provide camouflage from predators, whereas Antarctic pups all have dark fur.
Killer whales are apex predators throughout their global distribution, and can have a profound effect on the behavior and population of prey species. Their diet is very broad and they can feed on many vertebrates in the ocean including salmon, rays, sharks (even white sharks), large baleen whales, and nearly 20 species of pinniped. The predation of whale calves may be responsible for annual whale migrations to calving grounds in more tropical waters, where the population of killer whales is much lower than in polar waters. Prior to whaling, it is thought that great whales were a major food source; however, after their sharp decline, killer whales have since expanded their diet, leading to the decline of smaller marine mammals. A decline in Aleutian Islands sea otter populations in the 1990s was controversially attributed by some scientists to killer whale predation, although with no direct evidence. The decline of sea otters followed a decline in harbor seal and Steller sea lion populations, the killer whale's preferred prey, which in turn may be substitutes for their original prey, now reduced by industrial whaling.
A 2010 study considered whales to be a positive influence to the productivity of ocean fisheries, in what has been termed a "whale pump". Whales carry nutrients such as nitrogen from the depths back to the surface. This functions as an upward biological pump, reversing an earlier presumption that whales accelerate the loss of nutrients to the bottom. This nitrogen input in the Gulf of Maine is more than the input of all rivers combined emptying into the gulf, some 25,000 short tons (23,000 t) each year. Whales defecate at the ocean's surface; their excrement is important for fisheries because it is rich in iron and nitrogen. The whale feces are liquid and instead of sinking, they stay at the surface where phytoplankton feed off it.
Upon death, whale carcasses fall to the deep ocean and provide a substantial habitat for marine life. Evidence of whale falls in present-day and fossil records shows that deep sea whale falls support a rich assemblage of creatures, with a global diversity of 407 species, comparable to other neritic biodiversity hotspots, such as cold seeps and hydrothermal vents. Deterioration of whale carcasses happens though a series of three stages. Initially, moving organisms, such as sharks and hagfish, scavenge soft tissue at a rapid rate over a period of months to as long as two years. This is followed by the colonization of bones and surrounding sediments (which contain organic matter) by enrichment opportunists, such as crustaceans and polychaetes, throughout a period of years. Finally, sulfophilic bacteria reduce the bones releasing hydrogen sulphide enabling the growth of chemoautotrophic organisms, which in turn, support other organisms such as mussels, clams, limpets, and sea snails. This stage may last for decades and supports a rich assemblage of species, averaging 185 species per site.
Marine mammals were hunted by coastal aboriginal humans historically for food and other resources. These subsistence hunts still occur in Canada, Greenland, Indonesia, Russia, the United States, and several nations in the Caribbean. The effects of these are only localized, as hunting efforts were on a relatively small scale. Commercial hunting took this to a much greater scale and marine mammals were heavily exploited. This led to the extinction of the †Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas), †sea mink (Neovison macrodon), †Japanese sea lion (Zalophus japonicus), and the †Caribbean monk seal (Neomonachus tropicalis). Today, populations of species that were historically hunted, such as blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) and the North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica), are much lower than their pre-whaling levels. Because whales generally have slow growth rates, are slow to reach sexual maturity, and have a low reproductive output, population recovery has been very slow.
A number of whales are still subject to direct hunting, despite the 1986 moratorium ban on whaling set under the terms of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). There are only two nations remaining which sanction commercial whaling: Norway, where several hundred common minke whales are harvested each year; and Iceland, where quotas of 150 fin whales and 100 minke whales per year are set. Japan also harvests several hundred Antarctic and North Pacific minke whales each year, ostensibly for scientific research in accordance with the moratorium. However, the illegal trade of whale and dolphin meat is a significant market in Japan and some countries.
The most profitable furs in the fur trade were those of sea otters, especially the northern sea otter which inhabited the coastal waters between the Columbia River to the south and Cook Inlet to the north. The fur of the Californian southern sea otter was less highly prized and thus less profitable. After the northern sea otter was hunted to local extinction, maritime fur traders shifted to California until the southern sea otter was likewise nearly extinct. The British and American maritime fur traders took their furs to the Chinese port of Guangzhou (Canton), where they worked within the established Canton System. Furs from Russian America were mostly sold to China via the Mongolian trading town of Kyakhta, which had been opened to Russian trade by the 1727 Treaty of Kyakhta.
Commercial sealing was historically just as important as the whaling industry. Exploited species included harp seals, hooded seals, Caspian seals, elephant seals, walruses and all species of fur seal. The scale of seal harvesting decreased substantially after the 1960s, after the Canadian government reduced the length of the hunting season and implemented measures to protect adult females. Several species that were commercially exploited have rebounded in numbers; for example, Antarctic fur seals may be as numerous as they were prior to harvesting. The northern elephant seal was hunted to near extinction in the late 19th century, with only a small population remaining on Guadalupe Island. It has since recolonized much of its historic range, but has a population bottleneck. Conversely, the Mediterranean monk seal was extirpated from much of its former range, which stretched from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea and northwest Africa, and only remains in the northeastern Mediterranean and some parts of northwest Africa.
Polar bears can be hunted for sport in Canada with a special permit and accompaniment by a local guide. This can be an important source of income for small communities, as guided hunts bring in more income than selling the polar bear hide on markets. The United States, Russia, Norway, Greenland, and Canada allow subsistence hunting, and Canada distributes hunting permits to indigenous communities. The selling of these permits is a main source of income for many of these communities. Their hides can be used for subsistence purposes, kept as hunting trophies, or can be bought in markets.
By-catch is the incidental capture of non-target species in fisheries. Fixed and drift gill nets cause the highest mortality levels for both cetaceans and pinnipeds, however, entanglements in long lines, mid-water trawls, and both trap and pot lines are also common. Tuna seines are particularly problematic for entanglement by dolphins. By-catch affects all cetaceans, both small and big, in all habitat types. However, smaller cetaceans and pinnipeds are most vulnerable as their size means that escape once they are entangled is highly unlikely and they frequently drown. While larger cetaceans are capable of dragging nets with them, the nets sometimes remain tightly attached to the individual and can impede the animal from feeding sometimes leading to starvation. Abandoned or lost nets and lines cause mortality through ingestion or entanglement. Marine mammals also get entangled in aquaculture nets, however, these are rare events and not prevalent enough to impact populations.
Vessel strikes cause death for a number of marine mammals, especially whales. In particular, fast commercial vessels such as container ships can cause major injuries or death when they collide with marine mammals. Collisions occur both with large commercial vessels and recreational boats and cause injury to whales or smaller cetaceans. The critically endangered North Atlantic right whale is particularly affected by vessel strikes. Tourism boats designed for whale and dolphin watching can also negatively impact on marine mammals by interfering with their natural behavior.
The fishery industry not only threatens marine mammals through by-catch, but also through competition for food. Large scale fisheries have led to the depletion of fish stocks that are important prey species for marine mammals. Pinnipeds have been especially affected by the direct loss of food supplies and in some cases the harvesting of fish has led to food shortages or dietary deficiencies, starvation of young, and reduced recruitment into the population. As the fish stocks have been depleted, the competition between marine mammals and fisheries has sometimes led to conflict. Large-scale culling of populations of marine mammals by commercial fishers has been initiated in a number of areas in order to protect fish stocks for human consumption.
Shellfish aquaculture takes up space so in effect creates competition for space. However, there is little direct competition for aquaculture shellfish harvest. On the other hand, marine mammals regularly take finfish from farms, which creates significant problems for marine farmers. While there are usually legal mechanisms designed to deter marine mammals, such as anti-predator nets or harassment devices, individuals are often illegally shot.
Habitat degradation is caused by a number of human activities. Marine mammals that live in coastal environments are most likely to be affected by habitat degradation and loss. Developments such as sewage marine outfalls, moorings, dredging, blasting, dumping, port construction, hydroelectric projects, and aquaculture both degrade the environment and take up valuable habitat. For example, extensive shellfish aquaculture takes up valuable space used by coastal marine mammals for important activities such as breeding, foraging and resting.
Contaminants that are discharged into the marine environment accumulate in the bodies of marine mammals when they are stored unintentionally in their blubber along with energy. Contaminants that are found in the tissues of marine mammals include heavy metals, such as mercury and lead, but also organochlorides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. For example, these can cause disruptive effects on endocrine systems; impair the reproductive system, and lower the immune system of individuals, leading to a higher number of deaths. Other pollutants such as oil, plastic debris and sewage threaten the livelihood of marine mammals.
Noise pollution from anthropogenic activities is another major concern for marine mammals. This is a problem because underwater noise pollution interferes with the abilities of some marine mammals to communicate, and locate both predators and prey. Underwater explosions are used for a variety of purposes including military activities, construction and oceanographic or geophysical research. They can cause injuries such as hemorrhaging of the lungs, and contusion and ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract. Underwater noise is generated from shipping, the oil and gas industry, research, and military use of sonar and oceanographic acoustic experimentation. Acoustic harassment devices and acoustic deterrent devices used by aquaculture facilities to scare away marine mammals emit loud and noxious underwater sounds.
Two changes to the global atmosphere due to anthropogenic activity threaten marine mammals. The first is increases in ultraviolet radiation due to ozone depletion, and this mainly affects the Antarctic and other areas of the southern hemisphere. An increase in ultraviolet radiation has the capacity to decrease phytoplankton abundance, which forms the basis of the food chain in the ocean. The second effect of global climate change is global warming due to increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Raised sea levels, sea temperature and changed currents are expected to affect marine mammals by altering the distribution of important prey species, and changing the suitability of breeding sites and migratory routes. The Arctic food chain would be disrupted by the near extinction or migration of polar bears. Arctic sea ice is the polar bear's habitat. It has been declining at a rate of 13% per decade because the temperature is rising at twice the rate of the rest of the world. By the year 2050, up to two-thirds of the world's polar bears may vanish if the sea ice continues to melt at its current rate.
A study by evolutionary biologists at the University of Pittsburgh showed that the ancestors of many marine mammals stopped producing a certain enzyme that today protects against some neurotoxic chemicals called organophosphates, including those found in the widely used pesticides chlorpyrifos and diazinon. Marine mammals may be increasingly exposed to these compounds due to agricultural runoff reaching the world's oceans.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA) was passed on October 21, 1972 under president Richard Nixon to prevent the further depletion and possible extinction of marine mammal stocks.:5 It prohibits the taking ("the act of hunting, killing, capture, and/or harassment of any marine mammal; or, the attempt at such") of any marine mammal without a permit issued by the Secretary.:10 Authority to manage the MMPA was divided between the Secretary of the Interior through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), and the Secretary of Commerce, which is delegated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Marine Mammal Commission (MMC) was established to review existing policies and make recommendations to the Service and NOAA to better implement the MMPA. The Service is responsible for ensuring the protection of sea otters and marine otters, walruses, polar bears, the three species of manatees, and dugongs; and NOAA was given responsibility to conserve and manage pinnipeds (excluding walruses) and cetaceans.:7
The Act was updated on 1 January 2016 with a clause banning "the import of fish from fisheries that cannot prove they meet US standards for protecting marine mammals." The requirement to show that protection standards are met is hoped to compel countries exporting fish to the US to more strictly control their fisheries that no protected marine mammals are adversely affected by fishing.
The 1979 Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) is the only global organization that conserves a broad range of animals, of which includes marine mammals. Of the agreements made, three of them deal with the conservation of marine mammals: ACCOBAMS, ASCOBANS, and the Wadden Sea Agreement. In 1982, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC) adopted a pollution prevention approach to conservation, which many other conventions at the time also adopted.
The Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area (ACCOBAMS), founded in 1996, specifically protects cetaceans in the Mediterranean area, and "maintains a favorable status", a direct action against whaling. There are 23 member states. The Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (ASCOBANS) was adopted alongside ACCOBAMS to establish a special protection area for Europe's increasingly threatened cetaceans. Other anti-whaling efforts include a ten-year moratorium in 1986 by the IWC on all whaling, and an environmental agreement (a type of international law) the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which controlled commercial, scientific, and subsistence whaling.
The 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears between Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway (Svalbard), the United States, and the Soviet Union outlawed the unregulated hunting of polar bears from aircraft and icebreakers, as well as protecting migration, feeding, and hibernation sites.
Various non-governmental organizations participate in marine conservation activism, wherein they draw attention to and aid in various problems in marine conservation, such as pollution, whaling, bycatch, and so forth. Notable organizations include the Greenpeace who focus on overfishing and whaling among other things, and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who are known for taking direct-action tactics to expose illegal activity.
For thousands of years, indigenous peoples of the Arctic have depended on whale meat. The meat is harvested from legal, non-commercial hunts that occur twice a year in the spring and autumn. The meat is stored and eaten throughout the winter. The skin and blubber (muktuk) taken from the bowhead, beluga, or narwhal is also valued, and is eaten raw or cooked. Whaling has also been practiced in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic since about the time of the first Norse settlements on the islands. Around 1000 long-finned pilot whales are still killed annually, mainly during the summer. Today, dolphin meat is consumed in a small number of countries worldwide, which include Japan and Peru (where it is referred to as chancho marino, or "sea pork"). In some parts of the world, such as Taiji, Japan and the Faroe Islands, dolphins are traditionally considered food, and are killed in harpoon or drive hunts.
There have been human health concerns associated with the consumption of dolphin meat in Japan after tests showed that dolphin meat contained high levels of methylmercury. There are no known cases of mercury poisoning as a result of consuming dolphin meat, though the government continues to monitor people in areas where dolphin meat consumption is high. The Japanese government recommends that children and pregnant women avoid eating dolphin meat on a regular basis. Similar concerns exist with the consumption of dolphin meat in the Faroe Islands, where prenatal exposure to methylmercury and PCBs primarily from the consumption of pilot whale meat has resulted in neuropsychological deficits amongst children.
The Faroe Islands population was exposed to methylmercury largely from contaminated pilot whale meat, which contained very high levels of about 2 mg methylmercury/kg. However, the Faroe Islands populations also eat significant amounts of fish. The study of about 900 Faroese children showed that prenatal exposure to methylmercury resulted in neuropsychological deficits at 7 years of age
Ringed seals were once the main food staple for the Inuit. They are still an important food source for the people of Nunavut and are also hunted and eaten in Alaska. Seal meat is an important source of food for residents of small coastal communities. The seal blubber is used to make seal oil, which is marketed as a fish oil supplement. In 2001, two percent of Canada's raw seal oil was processed and sold in Canadian health stores.
Various species of dolphins are kept in captivity. These small cetaceans are more often than not kept in theme parks and dolphinariums, such as SeaWorld. Bottlenose dolphins are the most common species of dolphin kept in dolphinariums as they are relatively easy to train and have a long lifespan in captivity. Hundreds of bottlenose dolphins live in captivity across the world, though exact numbers are hard to determine. The dolphin "smile" makes them popular attractions, as this is a welcoming facial expression in humans; however the smile is due to a lack of facial muscles and subsequent lack of facial expressions.
Organizations such as World Animal Protection and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation campaign against the practice of keeping cetaceans, particularly killer whales, in captivity. In captivity, they often develop pathologies, such as the dorsal fin collapse seen in 60–90% of male killer whales. Captives have vastly reduced life expectancies, on average only living into their 20s. In the wild, females who survive infancy live 46 years on average, and up to 70–80 years in rare cases. Wild males who survive infancy live 31 years on average, and up to 50–60 years. Captivity usually bears little resemblance to wild habitat, and captive whales' social groups are foreign to those found in the wild. Captive life is also stressful due the requirement to perform circus tricks that are not part of wild killer whale behavior, as well as restricting pool size. Wild killer whales may travel up to 100 miles (160 km) in a day, and critics say the animals are too big and intelligent to be suitable for captivity. Captives occasionally act aggressively towards themselves, their tankmates, or humans, which critics say is a result of stress. Dolphins are often trained to do several anthropomorphic behaviors, including waving and kissing—behaviors wild dolphins would rarely do.
The large size and playfulness of pinnipeds make them popular attractions. Some exhibits have rocky backgrounds with artificial haul-out sites and a pool, while others have pens with small rocky, elevated shelters where the animals can dive into their pools. More elaborate exhibits contain deep pools that can be viewed underwater with rock-mimicking cement as haul-out areas. The most common pinniped species kept in captivity is the California sea lion as it is abundant and easy to train. These animals are used to perform tricks and entertain visitors. Other species popularly kept in captivity include the grey seal and harbor seal. Larger animals like walruses and Steller sea lions are much less common. Pinnipeds are popular attractions because they are "disneyfied", and, consequently, people often anthropomorphize them with a curious, funny, or playful nature.
Some organizations, such as the Humane Society of the United States and World Animal Protection, object to keeping pinnipeds and other marine mammals in captivity. They state that the exhibits could not be large enough to house animals that have evolved to be migratory, and a pool could never replace the size and biodiversity of the ocean. They also oppose using sea lions for entertainment, claiming the tricks performed are "exaggerated variations of their natural behaviors" and distract the audience from the animal's unnatural environment.
Sea otters can do well in captivity, and are featured in over 40 public aquariums and zoos. The Seattle Aquarium became the first institution to raise sea otters from conception to adulthood with the birth of Tichuk in 1979, followed by three more pups in the early 1980s. In 2007, a YouTube video of two cute sea otters holding paws drew 1.5 million viewers in two weeks, and had over 20 million views as of January 2015. Filmed five years previously at the Vancouver Aquarium, it was YouTube's most popular animal video at the time, although it has since been surpassed. Otters are often viewed as having a "happy family life", but this is an anthropomorphism.
The oldest manatee in captivity was Snooty, at the South Florida Museum's Parker Manatee Aquarium in Bradenton, Florida. Born at the Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company on July 21, 1948, Snooty was one of the first recorded captive manatee births. He was raised entirely in captivity, and died at the age of 69. Manatees can also be viewed in a number of European zoos, such as the Tierpark in Berlin, the Nuremberg Zoo, in ZooParc de Beauval in France, and in the Aquarium of Genoa in Italy. The River Safari at Singapore features seven of them.
Bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions were used in the United States Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) to detect mines, protect ships from enemy soldiers, and recover objects. The Navy has never trained attack dolphins, as they would not be able to discern allied soldiers from enemy soldiers. There were five marine mammal teams, each purposed for one of the three tasks: MK4 (dolphins), MK5 (sea lions), MK6 (dolphins and sea lions), MK7 (dolphins), and MK8 (dolphins); MK is short for mark. The dolphin teams were trained to detect and mark mines either attached to the seafloor or floating in the water column, because dolphins can use their echolocative abilities to detect mines. The sea lion team retrieved test equipment such as fake mines or bombs dropped from planes usually out of reach of divers who would have to make multiple dives. MK6 protects harbors and ships from enemy divers, and was operational in the Gulf War and Vietnam War. The dolphins would swim up behind enemy divers and attach a buoy to their air tank, so that they would float to the surface and alert nearby Navy personnel. Sea lions would hand-cuff the enemy, and try to outmaneuver their counter-attacks.
The use of marine mammals by the Navy, even in accordance with the Navy's policy, continues to meet opposition. The Navy's policy says that only positive reinforcement is to be used while training the military dolphins, and that they be cared for in accordance with accepted standards in animal care. The inevitable stresses involved in training are topics of controversy, as their treatment is unlike the animals' natural lifestyle, especially towards their confined spaces when not training. There is also controversy over the use of muzzles and other inhibitors, which prevent the dolphins from foraging for food while working. The Navy states that this is to prevent them from ingesting harmful objects, but conservation activists say this is done to reinforce the trainers' control over the dolphins, who hand out food rewards. The means of transportation is also an issue for conservation activists, since they are hauled in dry carriers, and switching tanks and introducing the dolphin to new dolphins is potentially dangerous as they are territorial.
An animal theme park, also known as a zoological theme park, is a combination of a theme park and a zoological park, mainly for entertainment, amusement, and commercial purposes. Many animal theme parks combine classic theme park elements, such as themed entertainment and amusement rides, with classic zoo elements such as live animals confined within enclosures for display. Many times, live animals are utilized and featured as part of amusement rides and attractions found at animal theme parks.
Two examples of animal theme parks are Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida (550 acres or 2.2 square kilometres) or Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Tampa, Florida (335 acres or 1.36 square kilometres). These commercial parks are similar to open-range zoos and safari parks according to size, but different in intention and appearance, containing more entertainment and amusement elements (stage shows, amusement rides, etc.).
The term "animal theme park" can also be used to describe certain marine mammal parks, oceanariums, and more elaborate dolphinariums, such as SeaWorld, which offers amusement rides and additional entertainment attractions, and are also where marine animals such as whales are kept, contained, put on display, and are sometimes trained to perform in shows.
In 2010 the practice of keeping animals as trained show performers in theme parks was heavily criticized when a trainer was killed by an orca whale at SeaWorld Orlando in Florida.Banks Peninsula
Banks Peninsula is a peninsula of volcanic origin on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. It has an area of approximately 1,150 square kilometres (440 sq mi) and encompasses two large harbours and many smaller bays and coves. The South Island's largest city, Christchurch, is immediately north of the peninsula.Cetacean Conservation Center
The Cetacean Conservation Center (Centro de Conservación Cetacea or CCC) is a Chilean NGO dedicated to the conservation of cetaceans and other marine mammals that inhabit the coastal waters of Chile. The CCC also engages in public education and information campaigns at the national and regional level.Delta and Dawn
Delta and Dawn, also known as the Delta whales, were two humpback whales, a mother and her calf, which entered San Francisco Bay in early May 2007. They swam up the Sacramento River approximately 90 nautical miles (170 km) upstream from the Golden Gate, about 20 miles (32 km) further inland than Humphrey the Whale had gone two decades earlier. Under the Endangered Species Act, California state officials were required to rescue the animals. Their journey was thought to be longest freshwater incursion by humpback whales.Dolphinarium
A dolphinarium is an aquarium for dolphins. The dolphins are usually kept in a large pool, though occasionally they may be kept in pens in the open sea, either for research or for public performances. Some dolphinariums consist of one pool where dolphins perform for the public, others are part of larger parks, such as marine mammal parks, zoos or theme parks, with other animals and attractions as well.
While cetaceans have been held in captivity since the 1860s, the first commercial dolphinarium was opened only in 1938. Their popularity increased rapidly until the 1960s. Since the 1970s, increasing concern for animal welfare led to stricter regulation, which in several countries ultimately resulted in the closure of some dolphinariums. Despite this trend, dolphinariums are still widespread in Europe, Japan and North America.
The most common species of dolphin kept in dolphinariums is the bottlenose dolphin, as it is relatively easy to train and has a long lifespan in captivity. While trade in dolphins is internationally regulated, other aspects of keeping dolphins in captivity, such as the minimum size and characteristics of pools, vary among countries. Though animal welfare is perceived to have improved significantly over the last few decades, many animal rights groups still consider keeping dolphins captive to be a form of animal abuse.List of U.S. state mammals
A state mammal is the official mammal of a U.S. state as designated by a state's legislature. Many states also have separately officially designated state animals, state birds, state fish, state butterflies, and state reptiles. States similarly have state flowers, state trees and state songs.Marine Mammal Protection Act
The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) was the first act of the United States Congress to call specifically for an ecosystem approach to wildlife management. It was signed into law on October 21, 1972 by President Richard Nixon and took effect 60 days later on December 21, 1972. MMPA prohibits the "taking" of marine mammals, and enacts a moratorium on the import, export, and sale of any marine mammal, along with any marine mammal part or product within the United States. The Act defines "take" as "the act of hunting, killing, capture, and/or harassment of any marine mammal; or, the attempt at such." The MMPA defines harassment as "any act of pursuit, torment or annoyance which has the potential to either: a. injure a marine mammal in the wild, or b. disturb a marine mammal by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, which includes, but is not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering." The MMPA provides for enforcement of its prohibitions, and for the issuance of regulations to implement its legislative goals.Marine mammal park
A marine mammal park (also known as marine animal park and sometimes oceanarium) is a commercial theme park or aquarium where marine mammals such as dolphins, beluga whales and sea lions are kept within water tanks and displayed to the public in special shows. A marine mammal park is more elaborate than a dolphinarium, because it also features other marine mammals and offers additional entertainment attractions. It is thus seen as a combination of a public aquarium and an amusement park. Marine mammal parks are different from marine parks, which include natural reserves and marine wildlife sanctuaries such as coral reefs, particularly in Australia.Marine mammals as food
Marine mammals are a food source in many countries around the world. Historically, they were hunted by coastal people, and in the case of aboriginal whaling, still are. This sort of subsistence hunting was on a small scale and produced only localised effects. Dolphin drive hunting continues in this vein, from the South Pacific to the North Atlantic. The commercial whaling industry and the maritime fur trade, which had devastating effects on marine mammal populations, did not focus on the animals as food, but for other resources, namely whale oil and seal fur.
Today, the consumption of marine mammals is much reduced. However, a 2011 study found that the number of humans eating them, from a surprisingly wide variety of species, is increasing. According to the study’s lead author, Martin Robards, "Some of the most commonly eaten animals are small cetaceans like the lesser dolphins... That was a surprise since only a decade ago there had only been only scattered reports of this happening".Military dolphin
A military dolphin is a dolphin trained for military uses. The United States and Soviet militaries have trained and employed oceanic dolphins for several reasons. Such military dolphins have been trained to rescue lost naval swimmers or to locate underwater mines.Oceanarium
An oceanarium can be either a marine mammal park, such as MarineLand, or a large-scale aquarium, such as the Lisbon Oceanarium, presenting an ocean habitat with marine animals, especially large ocean dwellers such as sharks.SeaWorld
SeaWorld is a United States chain headquartered out of Orlando, Florida it is a marine mammal parks, oceanariums, animal theme parks, and rehabilitation centers owned by SeaWorld Entertainment (one park will be owned and operated by Miral under a license). The parks feature killer whale, sea lion, and dolphin shows and zoological displays featuring various other marine animals. There are operations located within the United States in Orlando, Florida; San Diego, California; San Antonio, Texas; later outside the United States such as Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and previously Aurora, Ohio. On March 5, 2007, SeaWorld Orlando announced addition of the Aquatica water park to its adventure park, which already includes SeaWorld and Discovery Cove.
SeaWorld parks also feature thrill rides, including roller coasters like Kraken and Manta at SeaWorld Orlando and Steel Eel and The Great White at SeaWorld San Antonio. Journey to Atlantis, a combination roller coaster and splashdown ride, can be found at all three parks. The parks were owned by Busch Entertainment Corp., the family entertainment division of Anheuser-Busch, which is best known for brewing beer. In 2009, Busch Entertainment was sold to the Blackstone Group and subsequently renamed SeaWorld Entertainment. In 2013, Blackstone sold 37% of SeaWorld Entertainment in an initial public offering, and sold its remaining 21% holding to Zhonghong Zhuoye in 2017.The parks' marine mammal collections have been the subject of public debate over the years. The 2013 documentary film Blackfish, produced after a SeaWorld Orlando trainer was killed by one of the park's orcas, led to initial decreases in attendance, profits, and the company's share price. In 2018, SeaWorld's attendance and revenue began to recover with the addition of new rides, shows, and animal exhibits at its parks, as well as increased marketing about the parks' conservation and rescue efforts. It is a major theme park competitor to Six Flags, Cedar Fair, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, and Universal Parks & Resorts.
In 2016, SeaWorld announced that they would end their in-park Orca breeding program, and eventually phase out their theatrical killer whale shows altogether (due to state legislation in California that banned shows using orcas) starting in San Diego. It was announced later in the same year, that SeaWorld would build their first park without killer whales and outside of the United States in Abu Dhabi, UAE.SeaWorld San Antonio
SeaWorld San Antonio is a 250-acre (100 ha) marine mammal park, oceanarium, and animal theme park, in the Westover Hills District of San Antonio, Texas on the city’s west side. It is the largest of the three parks in the SeaWorld chain owned by SeaWorld Entertainment, and the world's largest marine-life theme park. The other SeaWorld parks are in San Diego, California, and Orlando, Florida. It is a member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).Sea Mammal Research Unit
The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) is a marine science research organisation in Fife, Scotland. It provides the UK's main science capability in the field of marine mammal biology. It is located at the Gatty Marine Laboratory, part of the University of St Andrews. It was established in 1978, when the Natural Environment Research Council merged its Seals Research Division and Whale Research Unit.SMRU's current strategic science priorities include evaluating the status of marine mammal populations; investigating the importance of marine mammals as components of marine ecosystems; determining the dynamics of marine mammal populations; studying marine mammal social structure and communication; providing the technological basis for observing free-ranging marine mammals and their environment. SMRU also uses the popularity of marine mammals to improve public knowledge about the marine environment.SMRU's activities address the requirements for information about marine mammals identified in the UK and Scottish Sustainable Development and Biodiversity Strategies and the Strategy for Scotland’s Coast and Inshore Waters. It is also relevant to the Joint UK Response to the Review of Marine Nature Conservation, the EU Marine Strategy and the UK Small Cetacean Bycatch Response Strategy.
SMRU is an independent NERC collaborative centre. The funding it receives from NERC is mainly to support the Conservation of Seals Act 1970. SMRU focuses over half of its research effort on cetaceans. In agreement with NERC, SMRU raises the remainder of its funding from other sources. These include the European Union, Defra, Scottish Government and UK Ministry of Defence. It also develops and supplies instrumentation to the science community.
SMRU Consulting Ltd (Europe) was set up in 2006 as the commercial arm of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews and provides consultancy services and advice on marine environmental issues. They have offices in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.
Notable SMRU Consulting projects includes Marine Mammal Mitigation on the world's first commercial tidal device at Strangford Loch and the development of PAMBuoy, now Decimus - run by St Andrews Instrumentation Ltd.On 1st June 2016, a dead Minke whale washed ashore on the West Sands beach of St. Andrews, near to the SMRU, and was discovered by a dog walker that evening. During low-tide on the 2nd June, staff and students from the SMRU, along with the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme, jointly conducted a necropsy of the whale in view of the public. Noting signature abrasions on the tailstock, and excessive fluid in the lungs, they concluded that the animal had been caught in a fishing trawler's lines, and was drowned by the dragging.Sealpox
Sealpox is a cutaneous (skin) condition caused by a Parapoxvirus, usually affecting seal handlers who have been bitten by infected harbor or grey seals. First identified in 1969, it wasn't unequivocally proven to be transmissible to humans until 2005, though such transmission had been reported at least as early as 1987. It causes lesions that closely resemble those caused by orf. As many as 2% of seals in marine mammal rehabilitation facilities in North America may have it.Society for Marine Mammalogy
The Society for Marine Mammalogy was founded in 1981 and is the largest international association of marine mammal scientists in the world.The Marine Mammal Center
The Marine Mammal Center is a private, non-profit U.S. organization that was established in 1975 for the purpose of rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing, marine mammals who are injured, ill, or abandoned. It was founded in Sausalito, California by Lloyd Smalley, Pat Arrigoni, and Paul Maxwell. Since 1975 they rescued over 20,000 marine mammals. It also serves as a center for environmental research and education regarding marine mammals, namely cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and pinnipeds (seals, fur seals, and sea lions). Marine mammal abandonment refers to maternal separation; pups that have been separated from their mother before weaning. At the center, they receive specialized veterinary care; diagnosed, treated, rehabilitated, and ideally, released back into the wild. Animals in need of assistance are usually identified by a member of the public who has contacted the center. These animals represent the following major species: California sea lion, northern elephant seal, Pacific harbor seal, northern fur seal, and the southern sea otter. On a few occasions, the Marine Mammal Center has taken in Guadeloupe fur seals, Steller sea lions, and bottlenose/Pacific white-sided dolphins. The only non-mammals that the center takes in are sea turtles.United States Navy Marine Mammal Program
The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) is a program administered by the U.S. Navy which studies the military use of marine mammals - principally bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions - and trains animals to perform tasks such as ship and harbor protection, mine detection and clearance, and equipment recovery. The program is based in San Diego, California, where animals are housed and trained on an ongoing basis. NMMP animal teams have been deployed for use in combat zones, such as during the Vietnam War and the Iraq War.
The program has been dogged by controversy over the treatment of the animals and speculation as to the nature of its mission and training. This has been due at least in part to the secrecy of the program, which was de-classified in the early 1990s. Since the program’s inception, there have been ongoing animal welfare concerns, with many opposing the use of marine mammals in military applications, even in essentially non-combatant roles such as mine detection. The Navy cites external oversight, including ongoing monitoring, in defense of its animal care standards.Vancouver Aquarium
The Vancouver Aquarium (officially the Ocean Wise Conservation Association) is a public aquarium located in Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. In addition to being a major tourist attraction for Vancouver, the aquarium is a centre for marine research, conservation and marine animal rehabilitation.
The Vancouver Aquarium was one of the first facilities to incorporate professional naturalists into the galleries to interpret animal behaviours.
Prior to this, at the London Zoo Fish House, naturalists James S. Bowerbank, Ray Lankester, David W. Mitchell and Philip H. Gosse (the creator of the word aquarium) had regularly held "open house" events, but the Vancouver Aquarium was the first to employ educational naturalists on a full-time basis. Aquarium research projects extend worldwide, and include marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation.
On August 9, 2010 Prime Minister Stephen Harper and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell announced capital funding of up to $15 million. The province would donate $10 million in funding over the next three years to help pay for a planned expansion of the 54-year-old facility, Premier Gordon Campbell said. Harper added that Ottawa would hand over up to $5 million to the aquarium for infrastructure upgrades. The aquarium, however, remains a nonprofit organization. The property is owned by the City of Vancouver and rented to the Aquarium for $40,000 a year since 1991 (prior to which it was $1 per year).
In October 2009 the Vancouver Aquarium was designated as a Coastal America Learning Center by the US Environmental Protection Agency. As the first Learning Center in Canada, this designation is intended to strengthen the Canadian/U.S. partnership for protecting and restoring shared ocean resources.