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We are currently at maximum capacity for the 2018 workshop. Please contact the

SCMMW Coordinator

to be placed on the waiting list.

The Southern California Marine Mammal Workshop is organized for and by marine mammal researchers to
foster discussion and collaboration within the Southern California research community.

2018 Workshop sessions include:

Entangled Whale Response and Mitigation Efforts

The recent increase in entanglements on the U.S. West Coast has prompted significant attention. From 2000-2012 there was an average of 8-10 entanglement reports with much higher total reports in the most recent 4 years: 32 in 2014, 61 in 2015, 71 in 2016, and ~40 in 2017. Records show the vast majority of entanglements occur in trap and pot fishing gear with most reports occurring off California. Efforts are underway to work with the fishing community in order to reduce overall entanglements. In this session we will hear from federal and state officials along with expertise from individuals representing various NGO's regarding their direct efforts involved in large whale disentanglement and working towards mitigation and prevention. Experts will discuss reasons behind some of the recent increases, tools and techniques involved in response efforts, and progress made by the diverse working group members whom are tasked with mitigating whale entanglements.

Climate Change and Impacts on Marine Mammals

Our world's climate is changing, and we are already seeing evidence of these changes to our planet, particularly our oceans. In terms of marine mammals, rising sea levels may reduce breeding grounds particularly in low-lying island habitats like the Hawaiian Islands. Many impacts on marine mammals will likely be driven by changes to their prey. The California Current is a hotspot for marine mammals, pinnipeds that breed and forage seasonally, and cetaceans that migrate to the California Current to take advantage of seasonal pulses of productivity. As such, increased harmful algal blooms and resultant increased concentrations of domoic acid in their food have had negative effects on California Sea Lions. Changes in distribution and abundance of prey can also lead to increased juvenile starvation and recent unusual mortality events for pinnipeds in the California Current. For cetaceans, changing prey patterns can result in increased overlap with harmful anthropogenic activities, such as entanglements with fishing gear and overlap with SONAR exercises. We can use recent extreme events, like the marine heatwave of 2014 - 2015 as a “stress test” to understand how warming waters may affect marine mammals, yet we also need to be aware that previously unforeseen interactions are likely to result as we enter new periods of climatic and oceanic extremes.

Vaquita: Conservation, Protection and Recovery

The vaquita is on the verge of extinction and is the most critically endangered marine mammal in the world. This rare, tiny, elusive porpoise was first discovered in 1958 and is only found in Mexico's Northern Gulf of California. Hundreds have drowned from entanglement in gillnets and there are fewer than 30 vaquitas alive today. Extensive international partnerships and programs have been created working to save this unique species, with the most recent field efforts taking place in the fall of 2017. The recent action plan and field season agenda included 65 scientists from nine countries and was formed to locate, rescue, and care for vaquitas in the Northern Gulf of California and ultimately return them to a gillnet-free environment. This session will act as an update and discussion on the plight and status of the vaquita, the recovery field season, husbandry and animal care perspectives and plans for the future.

Why Fossils Matter

This session will focus on the role that fossil marine mammals play in understanding past patterns of biodiversity and ecology. New techniques of study are explored among extant and fossil marine mammals including 3D imaging, molecular phylogenetics, finite element and morphometric analyses in addition to classic anatomy based on detailed dissections and descriptions. Highlighted recent research reviewed ranges from the anatomy of fetal and neonatal whales and the transition from teeth to baleen in mysticete whales, to the genes behind hind limb loss in whales and sea cows, to ecological adaptations in fossil walruses, whales and sirenians in response to climate change and changing food web dynamics. Fossils provide critical and unique reference points for interpreting marine mammal communities and diversity through time -a perspective that provides a vital context for evaluating today's ongoing biodiversity crisis affecting marine mammal populations and marine ecosystems.

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