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NOAA Fisheries
Office of Protected Resources
Acropora palmata thicket on Mona Island, Puerto Rico. Andy Bruckner, 1996Coho salmon painting, Canadian Dept of Fisheries and OceansMonk seal, C.E. BowlbyHumpback whale, Dr. Lou Herman
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Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) [pdf] was enacted on October 21, 1972. All marine mammals are protected under the MMPA. The MMPA prohibits, with certain exceptions, the "take" of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the U.S.

Get the Facts

MMPA Fact Sheet cover
MMPA Fact Sheet

Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 based on the following findings and policies:

  • Some marine mammal species or stocks may be in danger of extinction or depletion as a result of human activities;
  • These species or stocks must not be permitted to fall below their optimum sustainable population level ("depleted");
  • Measures should be taken to replenish these species or stocks;
  • There is inadequate knowledge of the ecology and population dynamics; and
  • Marine mammals have proven to be resources of great international significance.

The MMPA was amended substantially in 1994 to provide for:

  • Certain exceptions to the take prohibitions, such as for Alaska Native subsistence and permits and authorizations for scientific research;
  • A program to authorize and control the taking of marine mammals incidental to commercial fishing operations;
  • Preparation of stock assessments for all marine mammal stocks in waters under U.S. jurisdiction; and
  • Studies of pinniped-fishery interactions.

Policies, Guidances, and Regulations

Document Date
MMPA Regulations (50 CFR 216) [pdf] 2005
Guidelines for Differentiating Serious and Non-serious Injury of Marine Mammals Incident to Commercial Fishing [pdf] 1997
Guidelines for Preparing Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports [pdf] 1996
Marine Mammal Health & Stranding Program Policies & Guidances  

More Information
Reauthorization of the MMPA
MMPA Annual Report Archive
Marine Mammals Listed Under the Endangered Species Act
Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports

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