“CIMMI: 50 years and counting!”
California Channel Islands Marine Mammal Initiative (CIMMI) was founded with a mission to support continued population biology studies of six species of pinnipeds (sea lions and seals) in the Channel Islands. Pinnipeds are proven sentinels of ocean welfare—they provide early warning signs of changes in the ecosystem that may affect other ocean life and even humans because we all share the same ocean resources.
NOAA Comprehensive Pinniped Population Study:
The California Current Ecosystems Program (CCEP) of the Marine Mammal Laboratory, NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has led a science-based program of pinniped population biology for over fifty years in the Channel Islands, one of the longest and most comprehensive studies of its kind.
With San Miguel Island Research Station as the primary base for essential fieldwork, the program focuses on assessments of the health, abundance, birth and death rates, and foraging ecology of pinniped species breeding in the Channel Islands. Strong scientific collaborations have led to a multitude of advanced studies in the fields of pinniped population ecology and epidemiology of infectious diseases, as well as elucidating the impacts of environmental toxins (both naturally occurring domoic acid from harmful algal blooms, and man-made pollutants such as DDT) on reproductive failure and cancer. CIMMI enables these successful collaborations amongst federal, academic and private partners, and connects the long-term research to specialized studies.
The CIMMI’s long-term support of the Channel Islands pinniped research program allows continued focus on threats to marine mammal population health including support of an active collaborative research program with our conservation partners to rescue and disentangle pinnipeds caught in life-threatening fishing gear entanglements that result from interactions with local fisheries.
With over 130 years of combined experience and more than 400 research papers to their names, CIMMI’s founders are world-renowned leaders in the field of marine mammal science. The team consists of CCEP’s founding Program Manager, Robert DeLong, PhD; CCEP’s current Program Leader, Sharon Melin, PhD; Veterinarian and Chair of the United States Marine Mammal Commission, Frances Gulland, Vet MB, PhD; Animal Husbandry Manager at The Marine Mammal Center, Sophie Guarasci; and her husband, Robert Guarasci, a former Wall Street executive with a passion for ocean conservation.
CIMMI’s goal is to support this important pinniped population health field research program over the long term. Essential operation costs include transportation and logistics expenses as well as a budget to maintain the infrastructure of the San Miguel Research Station. With no salaries or fixed costs, we anticipate a lean annual budget of $100,000 and aim to raise $500,000 to cover the next five years of operations. During this period, we will also continue to develop collaborative research projects to improve our understanding of ocean health along the southern California coast by studying pinnipeds as ocean sentinels.