The Coastal Marine Mammal Stranding Assessments (CMMSA) Project conducts integrated environmental and biological assessments to investigate the patterns and causes of natural and anthropogenic sources of marine mammal mortality.
In addition, since marine mammals can be considered sentinels of our coastal oceans (e.g., as representative mammals and apex members of the marine food web), the CMMSA monitors stranding demographics to document unusual mortality events, inform the public of the presence of toxic chemical contaminants and significant diseases (e.g.,herpes, papillomas, hepatitis, influenza) potentially harmful to humans, examine relationships of human population densities and land-resource use to stranding patterns, and detect potential shifts in surrounding oceanographic and environmental conditions (e.g., possible regime shifts in prey abundances or other conditions linked to global climate change).
The CMMSA project is divided into three core areas of research:
- Marine mammals as sentinels of marine ecosystems,
- Natural marine mammal mortality and implications for coastal human health, and
- Anthropogenic stressors affecting natural resources.
Following guidelines of NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment, this project uses marine mammal health as one of the component indicators to help assess the status of coastal ecosystem condition relative to desired thresholds, evaluate potential impacts of natural and human stressors, and develop options for future actions to achieve desired outcomes.
Monitoring data from the CMMSA project also serves as a key component of the Environmental Surveillance Network (ESN), a web-based mapping application that integrates state and federal data streams to provide early warning to first responders, state natural resources and coastal zone managers, and scientists in the event of environmental incidents that may require rapid response.
Return to the Marine Mammals Program.