The Pacific Life Foundation has been sponsoring the Southern California Marine Mammal Workshop (SCMMW) since 2010.
The SCMMW is organized by and for researchers with the aim of fostering discussion and collaboration within the Southern California marine mammal research community.

2016 SCMMW - ReportPDF ProgramPDF and Poster AbstractsPDF

The 2016 Workshop sessions included:

California Sea Lion Response to Environmental Change

Co-Leads: Jeff Laake and Mark Lowry

California sea lions have been stranding along the California coast at elevated numbers since January 2013. The stranded sea lions have been primarily pups which are born during late May to early July in the Channel Islands. Pups typically wean in April; however, many have been stranding as early as January when they should be suckling and dependent on their mother. In the past this only occurred during warm-water El Niño conditions. However, recently sea lions have experienced reductions in coastal forage species such as sardine and anchovy, very warm sea surface temperatures, and a large toxic algae bloom. These conditions are challenging for adult female sea lion mothers that must travel from the island for several days to find sufficient forage to maintain their own body condition and supply their pup with milk. These environmental changes have led to shifts in sea lion diet, elevated stranding rates of pups, reduced numbers of pup births, reduced pup weights, and higher pup and adult sea lion mortality rates. In this session, we'll discuss what is known about how sea lions respond to a variable environment and what we might expect in the future.

California Bottlenose Dolphins: Iconic Nomads of our Coast

Co-Leads: Dr. David Weller and Dr. R.H. Defran

Bottlenose dolphins occur as two genetically differentiated ecotypes off California: a coastal ecotype that is typically found within 1 km of shore and an offshore ecotype distributed in deeper offshore waters, typically greater than a few kilometers from shore. The California coastal population is small in number, estimated at about 450-500 individuals and is distributed between Monterey, California and Ensenada, Baja Mexico with occasional sightings as far north as San Francisco, California. In contrast, the offshore population is estimated at about 1,000+ individuals distributed mainly along California but also occasionally off Oregon and Washington. The small size of both populations, in combination with their urban and trans-boundary (U.S.-Mexico) distributions place them at risk from a variety of human-related threats such as interactions with coastal fisheries, shipping traffic, military training activities and coastal sources of pollution. This session will provide up-to-date information on: (1) the coastal population, (2) the offshore population, (3) genetic/population structure, (4) health and (5) environmental threats.

Status of Blue Whales in the Eastern North Pacific and Current Threats

Lead: John Calambokidis

Southern California has some of the largest numbers and greatest diversity of marine mammals of any place in the world. One of the most spectacular species is the blue whale and there has been a growing body of research on their occurrence, status, and threats. In this session we highlight some of the recent information on blue whales in this region focused on several in progress or recently completed research efforts. We will discuss the ship strike threat specifically and some of the new research and controversy around the level of threat it poses as well as efforts underway to reduce ship strike risk.

Imagery in Conservation

Lead: Sarah Wilson

This session will highlight the role images play in conservation, both in print and on the screen. We all have experienced the ability for films and photographs to move us emotionally and change us mentally. During SCMMW 2014 and 2015 we discussed the importance for telling your story and discussing your work on social media and we looked at the different methods experts in journalism and informal education use to communicate science. This year we will build on these past sessions and focus specifically on creating films that explain your research and your story. We will have smaller breakout groups so feel free to bring your laptop or iPad to work on your project.

Whale Watching Impacts

Lead: Diane Alps

Historically, whale watching in Southern California focused on the Pacific gray whale migration, only occurring during winter months. Today, whale watching in Southern California is flourishing year-round. The presence of the large whale species in the spring, summer and fall has brought new life into the industry. This has increased awareness, community engagement, and opportunities for research. It has also increased the number of vessels conducting whale watching trips. Additionally, the "new" whale watching occurs during seasons with much better weather (spring, summer, fall) than previous whale watch timing (winter). This has created overlap in the whales' feeding grounds within heavily used recreational waters, leading to shared use with large numbers of private boaters and boarders. This session will look at the impacts from whale watching on large whale species.

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