This program is based on the field guide 'Marine Mammals of the World' published by Thomas A. Jefferson, Stephen Leatherwood and Marc A. Webber in 1993.
The original field guide was prepared under the direction of the Species Identification and Data Programme of the Marine Resources Service, Fishery Resources and Environment Division, Fisheries Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, Italy. Preparation was supported jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya, and the FAO Fisheries Department Regular Programme.
The format of this program is different from the 4 kinds of publications normally prepared by the FAO Fisheries Department Species Identification and Data Programme (individual species' synopses, world speciescatalogues of major resource groups, field guides for specific countries or small regions, and identification sheets for major regions of the world). It is intended as a worldwide identification program of a major resource group, with extended coverage of each species, and it therefore superficially resembles our identification sheet series.
This program summarizes the best information available to us on marine mammal identification through 1993. We did not have the luxury of time to consult all the thousands of original references that contribute to the substantial body of knowledge on these diverse animals. Instead, we took the following approach. First, we compiled much of the information for initial drafts from outstanding recent compilations, supplemented by our knowledge of more recent information. Second, with humble admission that we are not experts on all 119 species covered in this program, we submitted these drafts to from one to three colleagues per species and revised the text, often substantially, based on their corrections and suggestions (and often their generous contributions of yet unpublished data). Finally, we carefully re-edited the manuscript to eliminate extraneous information and to ensure that what we have included in the species accounts is in a format that facilitates comparison and cross-referencing.
The title of this program is slightly misleading since we also included 4 cetacean, 2 seal, and 1 sirenian species that spend all of their lives in freshwater. However,since all other members of these groups are marine, we include the freshwater species for sake of completeness.
Populations of marine mammals have been exploited to near the point of extinction in the past. More recently, marine mammals have become recognized not only as a fisheries resource and as a marketable tourist attraction, but also as an aesthetic resource, integral to the heritage of all mankind. The purpose of this program is to aid in the management and conservation of this valuable natural resource.
Good field guides and computerized identification programs are integral to all these activities. Although there are guides to limited geographical areas and some subsets of the world's marine mammal fauna, there is as yet no single comprehensive guide that covers all the world's whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, walruses, manatees, dugongs, marine and sea otters, and polar bears. Additionally, few of the existing guides provide aids to identifying live animals, in-hand specimens, and skulls. This program, commissioned by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and the United Nations Environment Programme, is intended as the first attempt to fill that need.
We have attempted to make this program as complete and comprehensive as possible. However, we are aware that it is limited by the differences in the amount and quality of information available on the various groups, as well as by the inadequacies of our approach towards representing what is available. Therefore, we prefer to think of this as a starting point, to be improved by input from those who use it in the field. Future editions will be modified to correct errors and deficiencies revealed by extensive use. In the mean time, we hope this program helps both amateurs and professionals with the sometimes difficult task of confidently identifying species of marine mammals they see alive or encounter dead.