NOAA Fisheries has responsibility for protecting, conserving, & recovering marine species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act ( MMPA). Research, monitoring, and restoration activities within the Environmental and Fisheries Sciences Division support this mission.
Snake River sockeye were listed as endangered in 1991, and the remaining Redfish Lake sockeye population has been reared in a captive broodstock program by fisheries biologists in the Hatchery Reform Science Program in a cooperative with Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG). The Redfish Lake Captive Broodstock program conserves the genetic potential and prevents extinction of the population, successfully bringing NOAA Fisheries to the next phase of the recovery plan to reintroduce sockeye to natal lakes in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. In addition to Redfish Lake sockeye, the Hatchery Reform Science Program maintains captive broodstock programs for Elwha pink salmon and northern Puget Sound Chinook salmon.
The foraging choices of protected animals such as marine mammals and listed salmon species can be assessed through rare chemical tracers, such as stable isotopes, and anthropogenic contaminants, such as persistent organic pollutants. The Environmental Chemistry Program applies analytical techniques to unravel dietary choices for hard-to-observe species such as the Southern Resident Killer Whale population. This information is combined with life history, behavioral, and assessment data collected by other NWFSC and NOAA Fisheries research teams to characterize the foraging ecology of protected species.
Marine mammal species occupy multiple trophic levels, from filter feeding on plankton to eating fish to preying on other marine mammals. Neurological toxins produced by planktonic microscopic algae can poison marine mammals through direct consumption of these harmful algae or through transfer of toxins in the food web. Toxins, such as domoic acid and saxitoxins, cause similar symptoms & disease in humans and marine mammals. The Wildlife Algal-toxin Research and Response Network (WARRN) West team in the Marine Microbes & Toxins Program assesses the role of neurotoxins in marine mammal mortality and morbidity events along the West Coast and Alaska.