Essay on Marine Mammals

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Marine Mammal Conservation
COM/172-Elements of University Composition and Communications II
July 28, 2013
Timothy Toole

Marine Mammal Conservation
There are 29 marine mammals on the endangered and threatened list produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The US Fisheries and Wildlife foundation also have a list that includes certain seals, sea otters, and polar bears. There are many threats to marine mammals. These threats include dangers posed by humans and the environment. There are laws in place to help protect marine mammals from further dangers. Captivity has brought forth much controversy as to dangers it may pose to marine mammals. Marine mammal habitat conservation may be the only answer to protecting marine mammal life.
There are five characteristic that an animal must possess to be classified as a mammal. These characteristics include being warm-blooded, having hair or fur, having the ability to breathe air through lungs, the ability to bear live young, and the ability to nurse their young with milk produced by mammary glands (The Marine Mammal Center, 2013). Marine mammals also have a thick layer of fat called blubber that they rely on to keep them warm in the water. They have the ability to store up extra oxygen to aid them in staying under water for extended periods of time. Marine mammals spend a lot of time swimming, their bodies are streamlined to help them swim faster. One of the most important characteristics of marine mammals is their ability to direct their blood flow to their heart and lungs and slow their heartbeat down to preserve oxygen when diving (The Marine Mammal Center, 2013). There are five groups of marine mammals. Pinnipeds, Cetaceans, Sirenians, Polar Bears and Sea Otters. The Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists 29 different species on their list as of July 2, 2013. Their list includes threatened and endangered species in the US and foreign species as well (The Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2013). The US Fisheries and Wildlife Administration also lists Polar Bears, Manatees, Sea Otters, and some species of Whales on their list (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013).
In 1972 Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Marine Mammal Protection Act is based on the following according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2013), “Some marine mammal species or stocks may be in danger of extinction or depletion as a result of human activities; These species or stocks must not be permitted to fall below their optimal sustainable population level; Measures should be taken to replenish these species or stocks; Marine mammals have proven to be resources of great international significance” (para 1). This was amended in 1994. The following was added according to The NOAA, “Certain exceptions to the take prohibitions, including for small take incidental to specified activities, when access by Alaska Natives to marine mammal subsistence resources can be preserved, and programs and authorization for scientific research; A program to authorize the taking of marine mammals incidental to commercial fishing operations; Preparation of stock assessments for all marine mammal stocks in waters under US jurisdiction; and studies of Pinniped-fishery interactions” (para. 2). There are also international laws in effect to protect marine mammals as well. Unfortunately, there are still many threatened and endangered marine mammals today.
There are many threats to marine mammal life. Humans pose a huge threat to these mammals. Fishing nets pose a major threat to marine mammals. Marine mammals who get caught in the nets are often unable to surface for the air they require in order to breath. Fishing nets such as, gill nets, trawling, and drift nets often catch marine mammals and cause them to be towed behind the boat. On occasion, the nets break loose but the marine mammal is still tangled in the net. This…