threatsEven though marine mammals are protected in the United States, there are exceptions to these protection laws and they face many human imposed threats both in the U.S. and worldwide.  Some of these threats include incidental deaths in fishing operations and indiscriminate fishing techniques,over fishing, scapegoating, native subsistence hunting, and marine debris.

Exceptions to protection laws allow for “incidental” deaths of marine mammals in fishing operations. Indiscriminate fishing techniques, such as long lines and drift nets, are used to meet consumer demand for fish and kill everything in their path including non-target fish, sea turtles, sea birds, and marine mammals. Nets are often lost or discarded at sea, where they continue to kill.  410 marine mammals are killed every day as a result of bycatch alone….that is one every 3.5 minutes.

The ocean’s resources cannot compete with modern fishing techniques and over fishing, which deplete the food source for marine mammals and all marine life.

As a result of over fishing, dolphins, sea lions, and other marine mammals are often scapegoats, blamed for declining fish populations. This results in the intentional killing, often legal, of both individuals and populations.  For example, in Newfoundland, 300,000 harp seals are killed each year, blamed for declining codfish populations. And along the Japanese coastline, dolphins are driven into shallow bays with nets, then gaffed, and dragged ashore where they are killed. In the United States, the lethal removal of California sea lions who prey on migrating salmon and steelhead trout in the Columbia River has been permitted.

Exceptions to protection laws allow for native subsistence hunting of marine mammals and marine mammals are often killed in the name of cultural tradition.  For example, every June in the Faeroe Islands, 3000 to 4000 pilot whales are driven by boats into coves and slaughtered.  The United States permits aboriginal whaling in Alaska with established quotas for hunting bowhead whales, belugas, harbor seals, Steller sea lions, polar bears, and Pacific walrus.

Marine debris can be ingested or entangle marine life.