Emerging Issue Summary
SPECIES OF INTEREST -- MARINE MAMMALS AND THEIR PREY
Overview and Management Relevance:
The immediate and overwhelming conclusion of the STAP to the set of management questions reviewed is that more baseline information (past and current information on basic population parameters) for both biological and physical environments is urgently needed to understand marine mammal population dynamics and elucidate the effects of development, climate change, subsistence harvest, and other stressors on marine mammal populations. As these studies are designed and data are collected, it is imperative that data be made accessible within and across agencies, as well as to stakeholders through avenues such as a central database (e.g., GINA), key conferences, and peer-reviewed papers. When possible, Alaska Natives should be given the opportunity to participate in research projects in their region.
Many concerns and questions raised by managers require integration across a range of spatial scales, multiple stressors to marine mammals or their prey, multiple trophic levels, and multiple years. This is consistent with a broader interest on the parts of many agencies to shift from single species management to ecosystem management, but the roadmap to accomplishing this shift is not clear. It is clear that the types of studies needed will often be expensive and will take years to complete. Uncertainty in how to proceed should not cause paralysis, but will certainly require a combination of careful elucidation of management needs, research planning, modeling to ascertain how best to focus the studies, substantial funding, and long-term programmatic support.
In addition to these broad concerns, the NSSI Senior Staff Committee provided the STAP with specific questions on marine mammals and their prey. STAP responses to these individual questions follow below.