PacMAPPS: Pacific Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species


SWFSC Contact: Jeff.E.Moore      

PacMAPPS: Toward Developing a Strategic Plan for Conducting Multispecies Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Surveys in the Pacific Ocean -  A Multi-agency Plan to be developed by NMFS (NOAA Fisheries), Navy, BOEM and USFWS (updated December 16, 2016). This white paper is a working guidance document.  Revisions will occasionally be posted to reflect the most up to date budget and survey schedule information. 

PacMAPPS is a partnership among Federal Agencies to conduct surveys to assess the abundance of multiple species and their ecosystem (Multispecies Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Surveys - MCEAS). The PacMAPPS.StudyAreaPacMAPPS partnership includes Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), NOAA Fisheries (Alaska, Northwest, Pacific Islands, and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers), U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). NOAA Fisheries is responsible for assessing and managing protected species in all U.S. Exclusive Zones (EEZs) and the eastern tropical Pacific (see figure at right) to meet objectives of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Navy and BOEM need abundance and distribution information for marine mammals and seabirds to address specific regulatory requirements (e.g., obtain permits, prepare environmental assessment reports) pertinent to conducting their activities at sea. Navy and BOEM activities occur in a subset of the U.S. EEZ areas for which NOAA Fisheries is responsible. The USFWS is responsible for assessing and managing seabirds in all U.S. EEZs, including Marine National Monuments and Wildlife Refuges in the Pacific.

PacMAPPS has a 5-year survey schedule. One geographic area will be surveyed annually, with surveys collectively encompassing up to approximately 180 sea days per year. Major benefits of multi-year planning include the ability to maximize leveraging from multiple agencies to generate data products that have the greatest utility for a diverse set of stakeholders at a minimum cost to each partner; and to align a schedule of surveys and data products with inter-agency permitting requirements.

Data to be collected during PacMAPPS will primarily include line-transect (visual sightings), passive-acoustic, and photographic data and skin and blubber biopsy samples for cetaceans, strip transect (visual sightings) data for seabirds, physical and biological oceanographic data, and data on mid-trophic fishes and invertebrates (e.g., active acoustics, net sampling). The data will be used directly to generate population abundance estimates for the surveyed areas, abundance trend estimates (if there is a long enough time series), delineate stock structure (based on photo ID data and genetic analysis of the biopsy samples), augment large-whale photo-identification catalogs (which ultimately contribute to knowledge about stock structure and large scale movement patterns), and provide time series information on seabird community composition, distribution, and abundance indices. Most of these cetacean metrics inform various elements (e.g., stock structure and abundance estimates) of stock assessment reports (SARs) that are required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.