Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed House amended (08/03/1992)

Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Act - Amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (the Act) to direct the Secretary of Commerce, 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, to establish the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.

Specifies that 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 (UMEs) by establishing a process in the Department of Commerce in accordance with this Act.

Directs the Secretary to: (1) develop criteria, after an opportunity for public review and comment, to provide guidance for determining at what point a rehabilitated marine mammal is releasable to the wild; (2) collect and update periodically existing information on: procedures and practices for rescuing and rehabilitating stranded marine mammals and for collecting, preserving, labeling, and transporting marine mammal tissues for physical, chemical, and biological analyses; appropriate scientific literature on marine mammal health, disease, and rehabilitation; strandings, which the Secretary shall compile and analyze, by region, to monitor species, numbers, conditions, and causes of illnesses and deaths of stranded marine mammals; and other life history and reference level data, including marine mammal tissue analyses, that would allow comparison of the causes of illness and deaths in stranded marine mammals with physical, chemical, and biological environmental parameters; and (3) make information collected available to stranding network participants and other qualified scientists.

Authorizes the Secretary to enter into an agreement with any person to take marine mammals in response to a stranding. Requires such an agreement to specify: (1) each person who is authorized to perform activities under the agreement; and (2) any terms and conditions under which a person so specified may delegate that authority to another person. Directs the Secretary to periodically review such agreements for performance adequacy and effectiveness.

Requires the Secretary to establish a marine mammal UME working group (working group) to provide guidance to the Secretary and the Secretary of the Interior for: (1) determining whether a UME is occurring; (2) determining, after a UME has begun, if response actions with respect to that event are no longer necessary; and (3) developing the contingency plan to assist the Secretary in responding to UMEs. Makes the Federal Advisory Committee Act inapplicable to the working group.

Directs the Secretary: (1) within 24 hours after receiving notification from a stranding network participant that a UME might be occurring, to contact as many members as possible of the working group for guidance; and (2) within 48 hours after receiving such notification, to make a determination as to whether a UME is occurring, inform the stranding network participant of such determination, and if the Secretary has determined a UME is occurring, designate an Onsite Coordinator.

Requires the Secretary to issue a detailed contingency plan for responding to any UME, subject to specified requirements.

Provides for the designation of Onsite Coordinators. Sets forth provisions regarding the functions of such Coordinators.

Establishes in the Treasury the Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Event Fund for use by the Secretary in: (1) compensating persons for special costs incurred in acting in accordance with the contingency plan issued under the Act or under the direction of an Onsite Coordinator for a UME; and (2) reimbursing any stranding network participant for costs incurred in preparing and transporting tissues collected with respect to a UME for the National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank.

Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) pending claims; (2) deposits into the Fund; and (3) acceptance of donations.

Specifies that a person who is authorized to respond to a stranding pursuant to an agreement entered into under the Act is deemed to be a Government employee with respect to actions in accordance with that agreement and, in the case of a UME, in accordance with the contingency plan, the instructions of an Onsite Coordinator, or the best professional judgement of such a Coordinator (in the case of any matter not covered by the contingency plan). Makes such provision inapplicable with respect to actions of such person that are grossly negligent or that constitute willful misconduct.

Directs the Secretary to: (1) make provision for the storage, preparation, examination, and archiving of marine mammal tissues, with tissues so archived to be known as the National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank; and (2) issue guidance, in consultation with individuals with knowledge and expertise in marine science, marine mammal science, marine mammal veterinary and husbandry practices, and marine conservation, after an opportunity for public review and comment, for marine mammal tissue collection, preparation, archiving, and quality control procedures, regarding appropriate and uniform methods and standards for those activities to provide confidence in marine mammal tissue samples used for research and documentation of procedures used for collecting, preparing, and archiving those samples.

Requires the Tissue Bank to incorporate, in addition to tissues taken during marine mammal UMEs, tissue samples taken from other sources in the wild, including: (1) incidental takes of marine mammals; (2) subsistence-caught marine mammals; (3) biopsy samples; and (4) any other samples properly collected.

Directs the Secretary, in consultation with the Marine Mammal Commission, the Secretary of the Interior, and individuals with knowledge and experience in marine science, marine mammal science, marine mammal veterinary and husbandry practices, and marine conservation, after an opportunity for public review and comment, to issue guidance for monitoring and measuring overall health trends in representative species or populations of marine mammals by use of the most effective and advanced diagnostic technologies and tools practicable, including: (1) the levels of, and if possible, the effects of, potentially harmful contaminants; and (2) the frequency of, and if possible, the causes and effects of abnormal lesions or anomalies.

Requires the Secretary to maintain a central data base which provides an effective means for tracking and accessing data on marine mammals, including relevant data on marine mammal tissues collected for and maintained in the Tissue Bank. Sets forth provisions regarding the contents of, and access to, such data base.

Authorizes appropriations.