U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in American Institute of Biological Sciences.


The United States is a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and thus shares responsibility with 13 other countries for conducting research on whales. In 1958, our research program was moved from La Jolla, California, to the Marine Mammal Biological Laboratory in Seattle under the direction of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (BCF), Department of Interior. This move consolidated the scientific staff, libraries, and facilities used for marine mammal research. The legislation that created the Bureau made this organization the one responsible for decisions regarding the use of whale resources.

The Standing Committee on Marine Mammals of the American Society of Mammalogists in mid-June, 1970, reported that "the indication has been advanced that the Whale Research Program of the BCF will be abandoned on 1 July 1970." Letters of concern that the complete abandonment of all whale research by the United States would be ill advised were submitted by the scientific community and the interested lay public to officials of the Department of Interior and congressional leaders. In July, a Department of Interior news release stated that at no time had a reduction in funding or termination of the Whale Research Program been announced. It was stated, however, that "In order to make better use of available funds, we are planning to relocate certain research activities, and to consolidate the scientific staff working with whales and other cetaceans." In August, the Whale Research Program was transferred into the newly established National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, within the Department of Commerce. Relocation in January, 1971, will move the program back to La Jolla. The two scientists from the Marine Mammal Biological Laboratory will be transferred into different areas of research (tuna population dynamics and gear reduction research).