Stay connected with us
around the nation »

Marine Mammal Authorization Program (MMAP)

The Marine Mammal Authorization Program (MMAP) allows commercial fishers to lawfully "incidentally take" a marine mammal in a commercial fishery.

Do I need an authorization?

If you own a commercial vessel or non-vessel gear engaging in a Category I or II fishery, you must obtain a marine mammal authorization certificate from NOAA Fisheries, or our designated agent, to lawfully, incidentally take a marine mammal in a commercial fishery.

How do I know if I am in a category I or II fishery?

You can find your category in the annually reviewed and revised List of Fisheries, which is published on our website and in the Federal Register. Consequently, your registration requirement may change from one year to the next.  The current List is in place until next year's final rule goes into effect. 

All commercial fisheries, as required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), must be categorized based on the relative frequency of incidental mortalities and serious injuries of marine mammals in the fishery:

  • Category I designates fisheries with frequent mortalities and serious injuries incidental to commercial fishing;
  • Category II designates fisheries with occasional mortalities and serious injuries;
  • Category III designates fisheries with a remote likelihood or no known mortalities or serious injuries.

How do I obtain a marine mammal authorization certificate?

If you have a state and/or Federal fishery license:

  • you are not required to submit an MMAP registration/renewal form.

Your registration is automatically renewed and you should receive an authorization certificate in the mail. Note that in Southeast regional fisheries, you will receive a letter with instructions to download and print the certificate from the Southeast MMAP website or to contact the Southeast Regional Office to obtain an authorization certificate. In the Greater Atlantic, West Coast, and Alaska you may also download and print your certificate.

If you do not receive your authorization certificate, please contact your NOAA Fisheries Regional Office.

If you do not have a state or Federal fishery license:

How do I report a mortality/injury of a marine mammal incurred during the course of commercial fishing operations?

You must, regardless of your category, report every incidental mortality and injury of marine mammals that occurs as a result of commercial fishing operations. If you do not report within 48 hours, you may be subject to suspension, revocation, or denial of a marine mammal authorization certificate

Online Form:

Printed Form:

All reports must be completed within 48 hours of the end of a fishing trip in which the mortality or serious injury occurred, or, for non-vessel fisheries, within 48 hours of the occurrence.

If I am in a Category III fishery, what interactions must I report?

All vessel owners/operators in Category I, II, and III fisheries must report if they incidentally kill or injure a marine mammal while fishing.  While you are not required to obtain an authorization certificate for incidental takes if you only participate in a Category III fishery, any incidental take you do have will not be authorized unless you report it.

Am I required to report an interaction if there was an observer on board?

Yes, all vessel owners/operators must report if they incidentally kill or injure a marine mammal while fishing even if an observer was on board.

How do I know if I've injured a marine mammal?

We have defined a marine mammal injury as a wound or other physical harm. Signs of injury may include:

  • bleeding
  • gear ingestion
  • loss of or damage to an appendage or jaw
  • inability to use one or more appendages
  • asymmetry in the shape of the body or body position
  • any swelling or hemorrhage (bruising)
  • laceration (deep cut)
  • puncture or rupture of eyeball
  • listlessness or inability to defend itself
  • inability to swim or dive after release from fishing gear
  • signs of equilibrium imbalance
  • released trailing gear/gear perforating body

My authorization certificate, in combination with my fishing permit, allows the incidental take of marine mammals; what does 'incidental take' mean?

Incidental take under the Marine Mammal Protection Act is non-intentional, accidental death or injury that occurs when carrying out an otherwise lawful activity, such as permitted fishing.  If you incidentally kill or injure a marine mammal during the course of commercial fishing operations you must file a report with NOAA Fisheries within 48 hours of the end of the fishing trip or, for non-vessel fisheries, within 48 hours of the mortality/injury.

When is it permissible to kill a marine mammal?

Killing a marine mammal, also known as intentional lethal take, is strictly prohibited, and only allowed if imminently necessary for self-defense or to save a person’s life.  If a marine mammal is killed in self-defense or to save a person’s life, you must file a mortality/injury report with NOAA Fisheries.

Can I prevent (deter) marine mammals from damaging my fishing gear and catch?

Yes, section 101(a)(4)(A) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act allows you to deter marine mammals from damaging your fishing gear or catch as long as the measures do not result in the death or serious injury of the marine mammal.  NOAA Fisheries is currently developing national guidelines, under section 101(a)(4)(B), for measures that can be used to safely deter marine mammals.  The guidelines will be released for public comment before they are finalized.

Which fisheries carry observers?

NOAA Fisheries has the authority to place an observer on any vessel participating in a Category I or II fishery, and on vessels participating in Category III under certain circumstances. Observer programs help us:

  • obtain reliable estimates of incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals;
  • determine the reliability of reports submitted by vessel owners and operators; and
  • identify changes in fishing methods or technology that may increase or decrease incidental mortality or serious injury.

Fishing industry representatives will be notified and public meetings will be held whenever possible to provide advance notification to a fishery that observers will be required. Vessels that are notified of their requirement to carry an observer must comply with regulations regarding:

  • advance notification of anticipated fishing activity;
  • cooperation with the observer in the performance of the observer's duties; and
  • when feasible, the collection and retention of marine mammals incidentally killed.

Vessel owners may wish to consider liability insurance to protect themselves if an accident occurs and an observer is ill, disabled, injured, or killed in the course of service.


For more information on the MMAP, or to obtain hard copies of the mortality/injury reporting form, contact the office nearest you:

Headquarters - Washington, DC area
NMFS Office of Protected Resources
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Alaska Region
Alaska MMAP website
P.O. Box 21668
709 West 9th Street
Juneau, AK 99802

Greater Atlantic Region
Greater Atlantic MMAP website
55 Great Republic Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930-2298

Pacific Islands Region
Pacific Islands permits website
1845 Wasp Blvd., Building 176
Honolulu, HI 98618

Southeast Region
Southeast MMAP website
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

West Coast Region 
West Coast MMAP website
7600 Sand Point Way, NE
Seattle, WA 98115
206-526-6155 (CA) (WA/OR)

More Information


Updated: February 7, 2017