The Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC)

Rose Boardman

This week as part of Blue Missions we interviewed The Pacific Marine Mammal Centre located in California, which rescues, rehabilitates and releases marine mammals. Life for a marine mammal is pretty tough. Current threats include climate change, by-catch, environmental pollution, ship-strikes and ecotourism.  Fortunately there are a number of great conservation companies out there that aim to make marine mammals lives a bit better.

Stardust – a resident at the centre. Photo: PMMC

Stardust – a resident at the centre. Photo: PMMC

Hey, Tell me about the Pacific Marine Mammal Centre. Why is your work important for our oceans?

The Pacific Marine Mammal Centre was the first marine mammal rehabilitation facility in California and was established prior to the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. It’s an organization that on the surface focuses on rescuing and rehabilitating hundreds of injured and sick Northern Elephant Seals, California Sea Lions, Northern Fur Seals, and Pacific Harbor Seals annually, along with our involvement with whale and other cetacean entanglement rescues.


However, from a broader perspective, the organization plays a major role in supporting the eco-system of our precious oceans along the Western coast of North America. This is facilitated not only through our animal care programs that maintain our pinniped species numbers, but also, through our marine science and ocean conservation education to thousands of students every year and our research initiatives that investigate the impact of adverse human-interaction to the animals and the ocean waters that they live in.

Release time! Photo: PMMC

Release time! Photo: PMMC

What are your mission statements?

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center Rescues, Rehabilitates And Releases Marine Mammals And Inspires Ocean Stewardship Through Research, Education And Collaboration.

Harrington before and after rehabilitation at the centre. Photo: PMMC

Harrington before and after rehabilitation at the centre. Photo: PMMC

Can you tell us about your current projects?

Our current projects include the following:

  1. Expansion of our center to include additional animal care isolation pools, additional lab space, significantly more education space, and water reclamation and filtration system. These will facilitate us meeting the demands of our programs as we continue to evolve. The additional animal care isolation pools not only help to address the volume of animals that we see but the ability to contain the sick and infectious from each other.

  2. We will additionally be building a 400 sq. ft dedicated Necropsy Lab that will address our renewed emphasis on research using research-grade space, instruments, technology, and protocols.

  3. We will add on 1400 sq. ft for educational facilities. We currently have close to 60,000 visitors a year that come through our programs, which is amazing for the current footprint that we have. Now, we won’t have to turn down programs that educate the greater community to be leaders and stewards for our oceans, the animals, and the greater environment, which brings me to our renewed focus in our Conservation Programs.

  4. Lastly, we will be building a water treatment and reclamation system at our Center. This will serve as the beacon for the next chapter of PMMC. We use up to 30,000 gallons a day to provide the animals with the consistent clean water pools that they need to survive. But as we all know, our current water usage is not sustainable, especially in California, and therefore, we are taking it as our responsibility to build this new system that will reduce our water usage by over 90%. The water filtration system will lead to overall better quality of care, less risk of infections, and faster patient release times.


What are the current greatest threats to marine mammals?

The continued ignorance and lack of awareness that much of our society displays with the environmental issues that plaque our ocean waters is the greatest threat to our marine mammals.  Unfortunately, the reality is that much of what we see with the marine mammals that we care for day in and day out throughout the year is due to man-made causes…plastic pollution, carbon emissions resulting in warmer ocean waters, harmful nutrients in our water runoffs draining to the ocean leading to toxic algae blooms, and more. This continues to compel us to do what we do and at the highest level of urgency, compassion, and skilled care that’s embedded in our organization’s culture.

Injured mammals ready for rehabilitation. Photo: PMMC

Injured mammals ready for rehabilitation. Photo: PMMC

What ways can the public help the Pacific Marine Mammal Centre?

We’ve had so much amazing support over the years that have come in some many forms. Above all, what stands out, is that our programs are 90% run by Volunteers, many of which have been here for 10 and even 20 years. On top of that, we have donors all across the World that support our Holiday Catalog Campaign, Fish Drives, and other appeals.

We have scientific, academic, and community-based organizations that graciously partner with us for our animal care, research, education, and conservation programs. We have Girl Scouts that will “adopt” one of our California Sea Lions and support the care and rehabilitation cost throughout the 3-4 months before they are released. We also had a 9 year old who raised close to $10,000 just for PMMC by selling conservation-related T-shirts. The on-going public support that we receive for our organization and our programs truly exemplifies that this is a special place.

What do you hope the future will bring for the Pacific Marine Mammal Centre? Do you have any new exciting projects lined up?

 The greatest hope for our organization is that we get shut down because there will no longer be a need for what we do. This would indicate that the marine mammals are thriving and that we have a healthy ocean eco-system that is sustainable.

Bunch of ellies in the pool. Photo: PMMC

Bunch of ellies in the pool. Photo: PMMC

If you want to find out more about PMMC or donate to help the rehabilitation of marine mammals check out their website and follow them here @Pacificmmc

Want to be interviewed for us? Check out our ‘Get Involved’ section

Blue Missions showcases the work of marine organisations dedicated to protecting our oceans

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, look out for more Blue Missions articles from Rose and follow her here@oceandreaming94 //@roseboardman4