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Fact Sheet

A World Class Marine Mammal Research Hospital and Educational Center

Since its inception in 1975 The Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) registered organization headquartered in Sausalito, California, has rescued and treated more than 19,500 elephant seals, sea lions, harbor seals, and other marine mammals that get stranded along 600 miles of California coast, and conducted research about marine mammal health conditions. The Center is able to accomplish this amazing feat thanks to a small staff and more than 1,100 dedicated volunteers.

On average, the Center rescues 600-800 marine mammals each year. Animals are rescued for a variety of reasons, including malnourishment, maternal separation, entanglements, diseases, and human interactions.

The Center's formal and informal marine science and environmental education programs and events reached more than 100,000 people in 2014. In addition, the Center hosted more than 800 onsite and offsite programs for pre-k children through adults. The goal of these programs is to inspire ocean conservation and show the interdependence we all share with marine mammals and the ocean.

Progress and Growth:

In the fall of 2005, the Center embarked on an ambitious project to rebuild its headquarters in order to accommodate the medical needs and demands of its patients as well as upgrade facilities that were more than 30 years old. In June 2009, The Marine Mammal Center dedicated the first purpose-built marine mammal hospital in the nation. The $32 million headquarters includes animal care, education, and administrative buildings surrounding a central courtyard. This design allows visitors to see more of the day-to-day work of staff and volunteers. Exhibits throughout the headquarters explain the Center's role in studying marine mammal health and providing expert care to pinniped patients.

Facility Highlights:

  • Better Hospital: Pens and pools are designed to meet the different needs of seals, sea lions, harbor seals, and other marine mammal species; intensive care and quarantine areas designed for the most sensitive patients.
  • Modern Research Facilities: An on-site lab reduces time for diagnosis and initiating treatment.
  • Improved Public Access: The 'transparent' design allows visitors to see the real behind-the-scenes work at the Center and gain an understanding of marine mammal and ocean health. The facility also includes classrooms and meeting space for our visiting students and public.

Animal Care:

The Marine Mammal Center brings together all of the necessary functions for marine mammal diagnosis, treatment and husbandry including: animal food preparation, pharmacy, chart room, laboratory; and necropsy.

As part of enhancing the visitor experience to the Center, glass viewing windows allow visitors to observe these functions.

An advanced Life Support System has capacity for 207,000 gallons of water, while overall water consumption is kept to a minimum through system efficiencies. In a wonderful example of adaptive re-use, the Life Support System is housed in one of the two former Nike missile silos on the Center's grounds.

The animal pens and pools are designed for the specific physical and medical needs of each marine mammal species the Center treats. The configurability of the pens and pools will allow veterinarians to treat more patients while maintaining top health standards.


The Veterinary Science and Research Center is home to the veterinary science and research staff offices. Visiting scholars, Ph.D. fellowship students, and externs from around the world visit for extended periods to conduct marine mammal health research and access the Center's database and tissue bank - an archive of records spanning over 25 years.


The Community Education Building is the primary visitor entry point and includes a marine science discovery area with interpretive exhibits, an indoor classroom, and a retail store on the ground level. The multi-use classroom and discovery area are expandable to accommodate formal and informal educational activities for both students and the public. Additionally, an observation deck above the Animal Care building allows visitors a closer look at the patients yet maintains the proper hospital setting needed for rehabilitation. 

Going Green:

The Center's headquarters incorporates eco-friendly elements and functions including:

  • 20KW's of photovoltaic panels on pen shade structures
  • High efficiency radiant floor heating
  • Use of skylights and windows for natural light and ventilation (no forced ventilation in offices)
  • Landscaping with native plantings that require no irrigation
  • 50% of the lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
  • Structural steel and wall framing systems ranging from 30% to 95% recycled content
  • All project casework fabricated from recycled and/or sustainable materials
  • All furniture is manufactured from recycled and/or sustainable materials
  • All paint and epoxy coatings are of low volatile organic compounds (VOC)
  • Building insulation with minimum 10% recycled glass
  • Cement board siding made from recycled paper
  • Gypsum board with 5% recycled content and 100% recycled paper
  • Efficient, low water consumption fixtures and faucets
  • Restrooms with water free urinals and dual flush toilets
  • High pressure wash down system in pens/pool area to reduce water consumption
  • Highly efficient water treatment systems that recycle water in patient pools
  • Variable speed pumps on life support systems to reduce electrical use
  • Use of pervious concrete in parking areas, which mitigates pollutants that can contaminate watersheds and harm sensitive ecosystems, as well as eliminate hydrocarbon pollution from asphalt pavements and sealers. This will reduce the amount of untreated runoff discharged into the sewage system

Ke Kai Ola: The Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital

In September 2014, The Marine Mammal Center opened a hospital in Hawaii dedicated to saving the critically endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal. Named Ke Kai Ola, which means The Healing Sea in Hawaiian, the hospital is located in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.

40 Years of Saving Marine Mammals

The Marine Mammal Center is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2015. It's been a long time since the early beginnings, when Lloyd Smalley, Paul Maxwell, and Pat Arrigoni set out to establish a facility that could help sick and suffering marine mammals that were stranding on the California coast. Equipped with little more than kiddie pools, garden hoses, and ambitious dreams, these three animal lovers began an endeavor that has grown into a world-renowned hospital, research center, and education facility.


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