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Report from the scientific peer review of the SEFSC Marine Mammal Research Program, December 11-13, 1996
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Report from the scientific peer review of the SEFSC Marine Mammal Research Program, December 11-13, 1996
  • Alternative Title:
    Scientific peer review of the SEFSC Marine Mammal Research Program, December 11-13, 1996
  • Description:
    The Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) convened an independent, expert panel on December 11-13, 1996 to conduct a scientific peer-review of the activities its Marine Mammal Research Program (MMRP) conducted during 1989-1996, and make recommendations and establish priorities for future research on marine mammals in southeast regional waters. Staff of the MMRP presented a background of the program and discussed the variety of factors, such as the several unusual mortality events of bottlenose dolphins which have occurred in the region since 1987, recommendations from a review of the program in 1989, and new mandates and funding resulting from amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which have had major impacts in determining the research activities conducted by the program. Staff from the MMRP and collaborators provided overviews of the research activities, much of which was directed at assessing abundance of coastal bottlenose dolphin stocks through a combination of large-scale aerial survey and small-scale, site-specific studies, but which also included significant efforts to estimate the abundance of pelagic cetaceans in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The panel met privately followihg the conclusion of the presentations by the staff, and developed a set of prioritized recommendations it determined were necessary to improve the overall quality of research conducted by the program. The panel identified three areas of notable performance and expertise in the program: life history analysis, response to stranding events, and survey capability. The panel also noted that the MMRP has developed and supported intensive programs to assess many aspects of the biology of bottlenose dolphins in specific coastal areas, and the panel strongly supported the continuation of these efforts. One of the major findings of the panel was that while the research needs were not substantially less than those in the other NMFS regions, the levels of staffing and funding for program were, and that this has significantly compromised the effectiveness of the program. The panel noted that this has resulted in the lack of a coherent vision for the program, an insufficient number of peer-reviewed publications, insufficient time for program staffto interact with NMFS andnon-NMFS counterparts, and insufficient diversity of expertise within the program to meet NMFS needs. The panel's highest priority recommendation was to expand the senior level staff through the addition of a coordinator, a large whale biologist, and a quantitative ecologist. The panel also provided numerous, specific recommendations for research activities it determined the MMRP should continue, expand, or initiate.
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