U.S. Senate OKs Maine scientist for Marine Mammal Commission

Posted June 22, 2010, at 11:24 p.m.

The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed Daryl Boness, 60, of Hartford as chairman of the Marine Mammal Commission, which is responsible for the protection and conservation of marine mammals.

Boness has served as a scientific adviser to the commission since 1993, he said Tuesday.

“The commission is an oversight body that essentially advises the executive branch on issues and comments on policy,” he said. “Its main concern is conservation.”

The commission does not conduct research, according to Boness, but looks at research results and reports that have to do with marine mammals.

“Members already have looked at research that has been done about the impact of the oil spill [in the Gulf of Mexcio] on marine mammals,” he said. “The commission will be monitoring the long-term research looking at the spill’s impact.”

The commission was created as part of the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act to review international agreements, regulations and the condition of marine mammal stocks, according to information on its website. The panel makes recommendations on how the government can conserve species under the Endangered Species Act and reviews permits sought by research groups and others whose actions might harm or harass marine mammals.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe announced Boness’ confirmation Tuesday in a press release.

“Throughout his career Dr. Boness has published over 100 scientific papers, and major reports, and he brings over 30 years of experience to help regulators resolve vital issues related to marine mammals and their interactions with human activities,” said Snowe, the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard.

“There is no question that we will be able to depend on Dr. Boness to advance polices within the Commission to protect our depleted marine mammal resources and ensure a brighter, sustainable future for our coastal resources and economy,” she said.

Tom Ragen, the executive director of the commission, also praised the choice of Boness as chairman.

“[This] is a vital step in enabling our nation to protect and conserve marine mammals,” he said. “The commission and its network of scientists are essential for ensuring that the United States is effectively promoting healthy marine mammal stocks — whether studying the impacts of oil on the food that whales eat in the Gulf of Mexico, or negotiating international agreements governing commercial whaling, or addressing scores of other current conservation challenges. Dr. Boness brings a wealth of scientific knowledge to the Commission, and I welcome his insightful leadership.”

Boness teaches part time in the School of Marine Science at the University of Maine. Before moving to Maine several years ago, he led the Zoological Research and Conservation Biology Departments at the National Zoo in Washington. His research over the years has focused on the behavior of seals.

Hartford, where Boness lives in a more than 200-year-old farmhouse with his wife, is about 25 miles north of Lewiston in Oxford County.

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