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February 2013

Major NOAA/NMFS Wildlife Monitoring Programs:
Polar Seals; Marine Turtles; Marine Mammal Program;
Billfish, Swordfish, Tuna, and Turtle Tagging Program; and
Antarctic Marine Living Resources Predator Ecology

Alaska Fisheries Science Center
Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center
Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Southeast Fisheries Science Center
Southwest Fisheries Science Center


Polar Seals:
The Polar Ecosystems Program of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center studies the movements, locations, and behaviors of free-ranging seals in high-latitude oceans. The results are fundamental for determining habitat requirements, estimating population abundance, and projecting the impacts of climate disruption on these ice-associated species. Small, low-power transmitters are combined with data-logging tags to provide locations and summary descriptions of diving and haul-out behavior through the Argos system. The program’s statisticians are using the Argos data to advance the theory and application of animal movement and resource selection models. Because some of the species, such as bearded, ringed, and spotted seals, are important traditional resources for Alaska Native communities, much of the work, especially field deployment of tags on seals, is conducted in collaboration with local hunters who are expert, life-long observers of these sea mammals.

Marine Turtles:
To track the ocean movements of sea turtles to determine routes of travel and end-point foraging areas, and to track the movements of pelagic turtles in development habitats in relation to oceanographic characteristics.  These objectives are directly related to our agency's strategic goal to "recover protected species" of sea turtles.

Marine Mammal Program:
Argos transmitters will be deployed on marine mammals to meet the mission goals of NOAA Fisheries in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and other regions it has collaborators.  These objectives include improving data on various marine mammal stock assessments and habitat use patterns.

Billfish, Swordfish, Tuna, and Turtle Tagging Program:
The objectives of this program are to monitor the habitat use and post release fate of the target species. This information provides insights into essential fish habitat and post-release survival of these animals for purposes of rebuilding depleted stocks, reducing the uncertainties of stock assessments, and improving the biological basis for management.

Antarctic Marine Living Resources Predator Ecology:
Pinniped research to be conducted consists of land-based studies in the region of the Antarctic Peninsula.  Studies encompassing census surveys, attendance, energetics, foraging, and long term monitoring (tagging) of Antarctic fur seals will be completed at Cape Shirreff, Livingston Island (including the San Telmo Islands) by the AMLR Program.  Studies focus on investigating factors that influence the population dynamics of these animals, especially feeding ecology, reproductive success, growth and condition, demography, and abundance.  Energetic costs and benefits of different foraging patterns can be determined by simultaneous measurements of energy expenditure, food intake, dive depth, duration, time of day and dive frequency, swim speed, and foraging location (via satellite transmitter).  These data will be integrated with prey data collected simultaneously from the ship-based prey program.


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