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Laws We Enforce


NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement’s jurisdiction spans more than 3 million square miles of open ocean and more than 85,000 miles of U.S. coastline.

While NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement has responsibility for enforcing more than 35 federal statutes, most cases fall under five key legislative acts.

Five Key Legislative Acts

  • The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which establishes domestic commercial and recreational fishing regulations. About 50 percent of the agency's enforcement actions help to ensure compliance with this Act.

  • The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which protect all marine mammals and endangered species, including salmon, sea turtles, and whales.

  • The Lacey Act Amendments of 1981, which focus on the harvest, processing, and trafficking of marine resources both domestically and internationally. This statute prohibits U.S. citizens and foreign nationals from violating the laws of other countries and introducing the products of such actions into the United States.

  • The National Marine Sanctuaries Act, which provides authority for the conservation and management of national marine sanctuaries.

In addition, we have responsibility for more than 30 other statutes.