Center of Expertise in Marine Mammalogy: Scientific Research Report 2006-2008

1.0 Overview

The Centre of Expertise in Marine Mammology (CEMAM) has been charged with identifying marine mammal research priorities and increasing the visibility of its marine mammal program. Marine mammal scientists, and CEMAM, have many reasons for performing research activities. This research involves national and international collaborations with industry, universities, non-government organizations (NGOs), and other government agencies. For example, many of the marine mammals in the Arctic are co-managed with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board.

There are many commitments to the Species at Risk Act (SARA), as many marine mammals in Canada are threatened or endangered, and thus advice needs to be provided relating to recovery potential. Research is also required under the Oceans Act, under which Marine Protected Areas are created, and the Fisheries Act, which has a section specifically for marine mammals, to ensure protection. Several species of marine mammal are hunted in Canada, both commercially and for subsistence. The Marine Mammal Regulations of the Fisheries Act aims to regulate and monitor these hunts. It is the responsibility of CEMAM to conduct surveys and assessments in order to provide abundance estimates and total allowable catch (TAC) levels for these hunts.

Within CEMAM there are several research priorities, which include fish population and community productivity, habitat and population linkages, climate change and variability, and aquatic animal health. These are linked to the strategic outcomes that include understanding and describing the state of aquatic ecosystems and assessing and mitigating the impacts of human activities.

There are three main research themes, which form the pillars of this report. These three themes explore research to cover the four objectives of CEMAM: population research, marine mammal role in the ecosystem, impacts of development, and aquatic animal health.

Population dynamics is the study of population size and factors that affect abundance, such as age-specific reproductive rates, mortality rates, and levels of immigration/emigration. Energy intake and disease are also important factors when determining population dynamics.

The role of marine mammals in marine ecosystems is the second theme, and is a complex issue. Many pieces of information are required, including overall consumption. To assess the impacts, prey abundance is required, as well as prey locality, nutritional needs, and energy expenditure. Some marine mammals are top level predators while others are lower in the food chain as they feed on benthic and pelagic invertebrates.

Human impact on marine mammals is the third, and final, theme. The most obvious impact is harvesting for both commercial and subsistence purposes. Other impacts include, but are not limited to, marine mammal watching, petroleum exploration, commercial shipping, and coastal development. These may have short-term impacts or longer-term impacts on survival.

This publication covers the last three years of research done by the scientists within CEMAM, divided by the three pillars. The aim of this publication is to provide an overview of the diversity of this research that is being done on marine mammals within DFO.

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