Stay connected with us
around the nation »

General Authorization/ Letter of Confirmation Permit

Bottlenose Dolphin jumping out of water
Bottlenose Dolphin
(Tursiops truncatus)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Do I need this permit?

A Letter of Confirmation (LOC) under the General Authorization may be for you if:

Qualifying activities may include: photo-identification, behavioral observations, aerial surveys, and passive acoustics.

These activities may not be authorized by an LOC:

Why should I choose the General Authorization?

The LOC process is simpler and faster than applying for a standard scientific research permit.  If your research qualifies for an LOC, you should consider taking advantage of this option.

When should I apply?

Apply 4-6 months before the start of the proposed fieldwork. The timeline below is an approximation of the process; the actual time of issuance of an LOC may vary.

Review of Letter of Intent for Completeness
(30-90 days)*
»NEPA Analysis/ Categorical Exclusion
(30 days)
»Issuance of LOC
(30 days)

*If NOAA Fisheries requires information during the review or processing of a Letter of Intent, you must provide the information within 60 days of the request or the Letter of Intent may be considered abandoned or withdrawn.

How do I apply?

Submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) following the Instructions for Submitting a "Letter of Intent" under the General Authorization for Scientific Research. [pdf]

You may submit the LOI:

california sea lion
California Sea Lion
(Zalophus californianus)
Photo: NMFS National
Marine Mammal Laboratory

Permits and Conservation Division
Office of Protected Resources, NOAA Fisheries
1315 East-West Highway, Suite 13705
Silver Spring, MD 20910

After submission, NOAA Fisheries will review your LOI. We may request that you provide additional information. Once your application is determined to be complete, processing will continue.

How long is a Letter of Confirmation valid?

An LOC can be issued for a maximum of 5 years.

More Information

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) generally prohibits "take" of marine mammals in U.S. waters by any person and by U.S. citizens in international waters. NOAA Fisheries can authorize take for certain activities, including scientific research.

The 1994 amendments to the MMPA provided for the General Authorization of Scientific Research (GA) for activities involving only "Level B Harassment " of non-listed marine mammals (i.e., those species not listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA). In this simplified process, researchers submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) that contains detailed information enabling NOAA Fisheries to accurately determine whether the research is bona fide and the activities are limited to Level B Harassment. Should NOAA Fisheries determine that the project is eligible, based on the information provided by the applicant, no public comment period is necessary. Instead, once the researcher receives a Letter of Confirmation (LOC) that they are covered under the GA, they may begin research activities immediately.

Updated November 25, 2013