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Sources of Human-Related Injury and Mortality for U.S. Pacific West Coast Marine Mammal Stock Assessments, 2014-2018
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Sources of Human-Related Injury and Mortality for U.S. Pacific West Coast Marine Mammal Stock Assessments, 2014-2018
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  • Description:
    The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) requires the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to document human-caused mortality, non-serious injury (NSI), and serious injury (SI) of marine mammals, as part of marine mammal stock assessments and to evaluate human-caused injury and mortality levels in the context of potential biological removal (PBR) levels under the MMPA (Wade 1998). NMFS defines SI as “any injury that will likely result in mortality”. While documenting mortality is straightforward, distinguishing NSI from SI requires data on injury severity and animal condition, often from challenging environments where thorough examination of animals is not always possible. NMFS updated its SI designation and reporting process in 2012, using guidance from previous SI workshops (Angliss and DeMaster 1998, Andersen et al. 2008), expert opinion, and analysis of historical injury cases to develop new criteria for distinguishing SI from NSI (NMFS 2012a, 2012b; NOAA 2012; Moore et al. 2013). This report contains human-caused injury and mortality records of pinnipeds and cetaceans that occur in U.S. west coast waters for the period 2014-2018, for those species evaluated in Pacific region marine mammal stock assessment reports (SARs) (Carretta et al. 2016a). Mortality records, while included in this report, were not a part of the SI/NSI status evaluation that included only live and/or injured animals. Subsistence and directed takes (i.e., gray whales taken by Russian natives) are not reported here but are reported in SARs published by NMFS. Previous serious injury and mortality records, including cases from 2007 through 2017, are published in previous reports (Carretta et al. 2013, 2014, 2015b, 2016b, 2017, 2018, 2019). Sources of injury data include strandings, disentanglement networks, the public, researchers, and fishery observer programs. Stranding data include records of injured marine mammals at sea and ashore. Injury sources include, but are not limited to, vessel strikes, gillnet entanglement, pot and trap gear entanglement, shootings, marine debris entanglement, research-related injuries/deaths, hook and line fishery interactions, and entrainment in power plant water intakes. Most records originate from stranding networks in California, Oregon, and Washington, though a few Alaska records of Eastern North Pacific gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) and northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) are included, because these populations are assessed in the Pacific region SARs. Other marine mammals, such as Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), occur in California, Oregon, and Washington waters, but they are assessed in Alaska region SARs (Muto et al. 2019) and are not included in this report. Injury determinations for Pacific region species/stocks in the central Pacific from Hawaii westward are also included in separate reports (Bradford 2018).
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