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Marine Mammal Commission Meets in DC

The Marine Mammal Commission’s annual meeting in Washington, DC starts today and runs through Thursday. The group of researchers and policy planners discuss the status of mammalian sea-creatures across the country—from Florida manatees to bowheads in Barrow.

“The Marine Mammal Commision is the oversight committee appointed by Congress to make sure that Fish and Wildlife, USGS, and the National Marine Fishery Service are doing a proper job with the marine mammals, “said Gay Sheffield with the Marine Advisory Program at UAF’s Northwest Campus. “They’re also there to provide advice if the agencies need some help on issues that are developing.”

Even though DC is a long way from the Bering Straits Region, the comments and problems presented to the commission guide long-term investigations and management, said Sheffield.

“All these problems and our shipping concerns, the information from all the agencies are being presented at this Marine Mammal Commission, and it’s a very important body.”

The MMC’s current special advisor on native affairs is Vera Metcalf, the Bering Straits-based director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission. Sheffield says that’s a big deal for the region, because it means local perspectives on marine mammals are being brought to the heart of governmental oversight over vital subsistence resources.

Metcalf is scheduled to speak at the conference today at 1:30pm EST/9:30am AST on efforts by Alaska’s mammal coalition to address Arctic shipping.

The MMC will address the five themes constituting its long-term strategic plan. Those include the changing arctic, developing offshore energy, the health of  marine mammals, bycatch in US and global fisheries, and issues associated with growing marine mammal populations.

A link to the full public agenda for the annual Marine Mammal Commission meeting is here.