National Marine Mammal Foundation – Who Are Those Guys?

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It is always heartwarming to read about a dolphin rescue, and the trials of young Sassafras is no exception – beached, sunburned and thin he was carefully nursed back to health but because he is deaf he can’t be released (see Deaf dolphin rescued in La. headed for Gulfport). Although the article does not speculate on the cause of the deafness, usually it is do to either loud sounds from seismic, sonar, or explosive activities, or in some cases from the antibiotics given after rescue, all factors which are kept quiet by government and industry.  So I decided to look further.
The organization called in to check the dolphin’s hearing is the National Marine Mammal Foundation. As a legal 501(c)(3) charitable organization, this organization is required to be transparent to the public and a quick check into public records revealed their true basis of operation. They may present themselves as another donation based marine mammal group, yet they are anything but.

The National Marine Mammal Foundation officially ‘does business as’ the as the Navy Marine Mammal Foundation – and as such they are dedicated to supporting military research and use of marine mammals. It is well funded by your taxes via the Navy and whoever else pays for their work, and yet they ask for donations as well.

The board of directors (from their website) consists of a lifelong navy veterinarian/consultant, a retired Navy captain, a current Navy veterinarian, and the executive director of the captive industry organization:

Sam Ridgway, DVM, PhD, DACZM is president of the National Marine Mammal Foundation. He is one of the founders of the Navy Marine Mammal program staring in 1961 and has 48 years of experience in marine mammal medicine and research. Sam joined the National Marine Mammal Foundation in 2007. Colleagues often call him the “father of marine mammal medicine” because of his development of dolphin anesthesia, medical technology, and discoveries aiding marine mammal care…Today, he wants to seize a unique moment in time. Now it is vital to preserve animals with experience in human/computer communication. With many years of human interface and learning, these animals offer a unique opportunity. They offer a great advantage in understanding the large dolphin brain. How this unique “mind” interacts with other animals and the ocean environment is a major challenge of our time.
The Founding director of the National Marine Mammal Foundation in 2007, Chris Ott has managed the business of the Foundation since its inception. During that time the Foundation has steadily grown from a hand full of employees to more than twenty with continued steady growth projected well into the future. He brings his experience as an owner and/or operator of small businesses in San Diego for many years and as a retired Navy Captain.

Dr. Cynthia Smith serves as the Executive Director and Director of Medicine for the National Marine Mammal Foundation.
She has provided marine mammal medical care for the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program for the past ten years. During that time, Dr. Smith has mentored more than fifty civilian veterinarians, U.S. Army veterinarians, and veterinary students in routine and critical care of marine mammals. Her vision for the Foundation is to grow the organization into a national marine mammal center that strives to advance marine mammal medicine and science, provide national and humanitarian service, and develop educational outreach opportunities.
Marilee Menard is the executive director of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, an international organization of parks, aquariums, zoos, research facilities, and professional groups. Alliance members fund and support marine mammal studies and collaborate on research with the National Marine Mammal Foundation. The Alliance is also a supporter of Aquatic Mammals, the oldest international scientific, peer-reviewed marine mammal journal.

In 2011 the organization reported $3,744,341 revenue from the Navy Marine Mammal Foundation (remember, they are the Navy Marine Mammal Foundation) and close to a quarter million dollars in government grants.
And they pay themselves generously – the executive director pulled in close to $200,000 in salary and supplements, while the top paid scientist made over $190,000.
They still ask for money-




NMMF logo decal, lanyard, and pen. $100 Signed copy of Dr. Sam Ridgway’s book, Dolphin Doctor. NMMF reusable tote, decal, lanyard, and pen. $500 Invitation for two to NMMF’s annual event. Signed copy of Dr. Sam Ridgway’s book, Dolphin Doctor. NMMF logo baseball cap, reusable tote, decal, lanyard, and pen. $1,000

Mission Statement

The National Marine Mammal Foundation has a mission to improve and protect life for all marine mammals, humans, and our shared oceans through science, service, and education. See our video. [Below]

Our vision for the future is to revolutionize the way we think about marine mammals. By embracing the partnership created between human and marine mammal, we can create a sea change in our global approach to scientific exploration, ocean conservation, and public education.
We achieve our mission through the following actions:

  • Collaborate with the nation’s top scientists and institutions to translate our research into applicable medicine and species conservation
  • Develop education programs to share Foundation research discoveries and expertise
  • Foster an environment that creatively, effectively, and positively shapes marine mammal medicine, research, training, and education
  • Conduct research that benefits the conservation and care of marine mammals and the health of humans

Reality check, the military and local schools seem to be the chief benefactors.

And if you want information on the work on hearing from this organization that bills itself as educational, you will need to fill out a “Consultant Request Form” – I filled one out, and will let you know what information they are willing to share.

Oh, and about Sassafras the dolphin – he is going to be living on “Dolphin Lane” at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies where he may get to be part of the ‘dolphin dip’ wade-with-dolphin experience, or poolside touch-athon. Research? Education? Where?

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