For Protecting Marine Mammals on their Breeding Grounds

WHEREAS, a recent (within the past 10 years) mushrooming growth in human mobility and tourism to hitherto remote and isolated wilderness islands and lagoons in Baja California, Mexico, has occurred; and

WHEREAS, hundreds of tourists entered nursing, breeding, and resting areas of the northern elephant seal, harbor seal, California sea lion, and California gray whale during January and February of 1973; and

WHEREAS, there are no adequate or proper rules governing the behavior of these tourists while among these mammals; and

WHEREAS, it was observed in 1973 that at one frequently visited elephant seal colony on Guadalupe Island the number of weaned pups numbered about 50% of the number seen on the same beaches in 1965; and

WHEREAS, it was observed that about one-third of the newly born harbor seal pups on San Martin Island were already dead and others, lacking insulating blubber were, because of human disturbance, forced to remain in the cold water for an extended period (about 5 hours) probably causing further mortality; and

WHEREAS, California gray whales with nursing young and others involved in mating behavior in Scammon's Lagoon were closely approached by tourists in outboard motor boats until the animals fled; and

WHEREAS, Isla San Benito del Centro, where over 3,000 California sea lions were observed on shore in 1950 and over 2,000 in 1965, and where 30 tourists and no sea lions were observed on shore in 1973; and

WHEREAS, colonies of the northern fur seal, Hawaiian monk seal, Steller sea lion, and harbor seal have disappeared when subjected to prolonged human disturbance; and

WHEREAS, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (PL 92522) expressly forbids the harassment (disturbance) of marine mammals by U.S. citizens, and states further: "In particular, efforts should be made to protect the rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance for each species of marine mammals from the adverse effects of man's actions";

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the American Society of Mammalogists recommends that strict regulations be formulated to where and where not American tourists may go and what they may and may not do in the vicinity of breeding marine mammals; and specifically that access to Scammon's Lagoon, the islands of San Benito del Este, San Benito del Centro, and San Martin be prohibited during the months of January through June, except by special scientific permit; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that knowledgeable scientists of Mexico and the United States be instructed by their Governments to assemble and formulate these restrictive rules to protect and preserve these marine mammals during the most vulnerable period of their annual cycle.