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National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank (NMMTB)


Additional Resources

National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank Sample Collection 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]

For a Specimen Catalog please contact:

Rebecca S. Pugh
Hollings Marine Laboratory
331 Ft. Johnson Rd.
Charleston, SC 29412
843-725-4815 (phone)

Dr. Teresa K. Rowles
1315 East-West Hwy.
Silver Spring, MD  20910

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



In 1989, the National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources, in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) established 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, an important component of NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP), is maintained by NIST as part of the Marine Environmental Specimen Bank.

Specimens from Alaska are provided to the bank through the Alaska Marine Mammal Tissue Archival Project (AMMTAP) and samples throughout the coastal U.S., including the Pacific Islands region, are provided to the bank through the MMHSRP.

The cryogenic banking facilities for the NMMTB are operated by the NIST Analytical Chemistry Division in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Charleston, South Carolina. The Charleston facility is located at the Hollings Marine Laboratory.


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: 

Indicator species include:

The NMMTB has samples from over 45 species of marine mammals.


Partners (past and present) for collections have included: New England Aquarium, UNC-Wilmington, NOAA/NOS Charleston, The Marine Mammal Center, Mote Marine Laboratory, Chicago Zoological Society, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, Sea World San Diego, Cape Cod Stranding Network, Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program, Hawaii Pacific University, NMFS/SWFSC, NMFS/PIFSC, Alaska Biological Science Center (USGS and USFWS), Kawerak, Inc., Kotzebue IRA, North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, Nanuuq Commission, St. Paul Tribal Government, Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, Ecosystem Conservation Office, Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, Alaska Beluga Whale Committee, Eskimo Walrus Commission, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the Alaska Sea Life Center, as well as additional MMHSRP stranding network participants.

Last Updated: June 1, 2017