|Satellite Tag on Dolphin
Photo: Southeast Stranding Network
In recent years, high concentrations of potentially toxic substances in marine mammals and an increase in new diseases have been documented, and scientists have begun to consider the possibility of a link between these toxic substances and marine mammal mortality events. These studies contribute to a growing, worldwide effort of marine mammal biomonitoring not only to help assess the health and contaminant loads of marine mammals, but also to assist in determining anthropogenic impacts on marine mammals, marine food chains and marine ecosystem health. NOAA Fisheries provides participants in the program with training and some financial support. Using strandings, and bycatch animals, the participants provide tissue/serum archiving, samples for analyses, disease monitoring and reporting and additional response during disease investigations.
Health assessments on wild marine animal populations are conducted to develop baseline data, monitor trends, and investigate impacts of disease, natural toxins and pollution on marine animal populations. This program enables NOAA Fisheries to determine current status on concentrations of chemical contaminants, biotoxins, biochemical components, and health in marine animals. This information is used to determine trends related to the health of marine animals and their ecosystems and to correlate these trends with physical, chemical, and biological environmental parameters.