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NOAA Fisheries
Office of Protected Resources
Acropora palmata thicket on Mona Island, Puerto Rico. Andy Bruckner, 1996Coho salmon painting, Canadian Dept of Fisheries and OceansMonk seal, C.E. BowlbyHumpback whale, Dr. Lou Herman
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National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank (NMMTB)


National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank Form [pdf]

National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank Request Form [pdf]

National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank Specimen Access Policy [pdf]

Final Rule: Access to Tissue Specimen Samples from the National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank [pdf]


Specimen catalog and access policy are available from the contacts listed below.

Dr. Teresa K. Rowles
1315 East-West Hwy.
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Telephone: 301-427-8402

Dr. Paul R. Becker
331 Ft. Johnson Rd.
Charleston, SC 29412
Telephone: 843-762-8861

Harbor Seal in the water
Harbor Seal
(Phoca vitulina)
Photo: NOAA

california sea lion
California Sea Lion
(Zalophus californianus)
Photo: NMFS National
Marine Mammal Laboratory

Tissue Bank Data
The National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank (NMMTB) system website is now available:

In 1989, the National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources, in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) began the National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank (NMMTB) for long-term cryogenic archival of selected marine mammal tissues. In 1992, the NMMTB was formally established by the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Act (Public Law 102-587).

The NMMTB, which is an important component of NOAA Fisheries's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, is maintained by NIST as part of the National Biomonitoring Specimen Bank and the Marine Environmental Specimen Bank, which was established in 2002.

Specimens from Alaska are provided to the bank through the Alaska Marine Mammal Tissue Archival Project. The USGS Biological Resources Division is the lead agency for this project.

The cryogenic banking facilities for the NMMTB are operated by the NIST Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Charleston, South Carolina. The Charleston facility is located in the newly-constructed Hollings Marine Laboratory at the South Carolina Marine Resources Center.

Protocols developed by NIST for collecting and archiving tissues are designed to:

  1. provide sufficient material for multiple analyses
  2. minimize the possibility of sample change and/or loss during storage
  3. minimize inadvertent contamination during sample handling and ensure sample integrity
  4. provide for long-term sample stability through cryogenic techniques
  5. track and maintain a record of sample history. Sources of tissues include
    • freshly-dead stranded animals
    • incidental takes in fishing activities
    • animals taken by Native Americans for subsistence

Indicator species include:

  • harbor seal (Phoca vitulina)
  • California sea lion (Zalophus californianus)
  • northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus)
  • ringed seal (Phoca hispida)
  • pilot whale (Globicephala melas)
  • harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)
  • Atlantic white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus)
  • pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps)
  • bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
  • rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis)
  • common dolphin (Delphinus delphis)
  • beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas)
  • bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus)
  • polar bear (Ursus maritimus)

The NMMTB also has samples from other species.

Current partners for collections include:

  • New England Aquarium
  • UNC-Willmington
  • NOAA/NOS Charleston
  • The Marine Mammal Center (Sausalito, CA)
  • Alaska Biological Science Center (USGS and USFWS)
  • Kawerak, Inc.
  • Kotzebue IRA
  • North Slope Borough Dept of Wildlife Management

Updated: August 13, 2012

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