What We Do

The Marine Mammal Laboratory, a division of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, conducts research on whales, seals, sea lions and porpoises off the coasts of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California. We collect data on marine mammal behavior, population dynamics, life history, migration patterns, distribution, and trends in abundance.

Data are collected through land-, sea-, and air-based surveys using a variety of sophisticated technologies, methods and models. Domestic and international organizations, including the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, the International Whaling Commission, and the Arctic Council, use our data to develop management measures for these species.

Alaska Ecosystems Program

The Alaska Ecosystems Program conducts research on Steller sea lions and northern fur seals off the coast of Alaska. We collect information to assess the current status of these species and to help improve our understanding of their behavior, health, and ecology, and role in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska ecosystems.

The Polar Ecosystems Program

The Polar Ecosystems Program conducts research and monitors seals and sea lions in the Arctic, sub-Arctic, and Antarctic marine ecosystems. Our focus species include harbor seals and ice seals: bearded, ringed, spotted, and ribbon seals in Alaska. We primarily study population trends, distribution and feeding ecology.

The Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program

The Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program is responsible for conducting studies to assess the status of whales in Alaskan waters. Our recent studies have focused on North Pacific right, bowhead, gray, humpback, beluga and killer whales, and Dall’s, and harbor porpoise. Past studies have looked at blue, fin, sei, minke, sperm, and beaked whales, and the Pacific white-sided dolphin. We gather species-specific information on abundance, trends, stock structure, habitat, and feeding habits using aerial, vessel or shore-based survey counts, acoustic studies, radio or satellite telemetry, genetic studies, and photo-identification. 

The California Current Ecosystems Program

The California Current Ecosystems Program conducts research on the status and trends of California sea lion lions, Steller sea lions and northern fur seals in Washington, Oregon, and California. We monitor population trends and conduct studies to assess how disease and changing environmental conditions affect population health. Studies of movements, behavior, and foraging patterns also provide insight into the role these marine mammals play in the ecosystem.

Our Leadership