The Secretary shall, in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior, the Marine Mammal Commission, and individuals with knowledge and experience in marine science, marine mammal science, marine mammal veterinary and husbandry practices, and marine conservation, including stranding network participants, establish a program to be known as the “Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program”.
The purposes of the Program shall be to—
(1)facilitate the collection and dissemination of reference data on the health of marine mammals and health trends of marine mammal populations in the wild;
(2)correlate the health of marine mammals and marine mammal populations, in the wild, with available data on physical, chemical, and biological environmental parameters; and
(3)coordinate effective responses to unusual mortality events by establishing a process in the Department of Commerce in accordance with section
1421c of this title.
“(1) Current stranding network participants have performed an undeniably valuable and ceaseless job of responding to marine mammal strandings over the last 15 years.
“(2) Insufficient understanding of the connection between marine mammal health and the physical, chemical, and biological parameters of their environment prevents an adequate understanding of the causes of marine mammal unusual mortality events.
“(3) An accurate assessment of marine mammal health, health trends in marine mammal populations in the wild, and causes of marine mammal unusual mortality events cannot be made without adequate reference data on marine mammals and the environment in which they live.
“(4) A systematic assessment of the sources, presence, levels, and effects of potentially harmful contaminants on marine mammals would provide a better understanding of some of the causes of marine mammal unusual mortality events and may serve as an indicator of the general health of our coastal and marine environments.
“(5) Responses to marine mammal unusual mortality events are often uncoordinated, due to the lack of sufficient contingency planning.
“(6) Standardized methods for the reporting of dying, dead, or otherwise incapacitated marine mammals in the wild would greatly assist in the determination of the causes of marine mammal unusual mortality events and enhance general knowledge of marine mammal species.
“(7) A formal system for collection, preparation, and archiving of, and providing access to, marine mammal tissues will enhance efforts to investigate the health of marine mammals and health trends of marine mammal populations, and to develop reference data.
“(8) Information on marine mammals, including results of analyses of marine mammal tissues, should be broadly available to the scientific community, including stranding network participants, through a marine mammal data base.”
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