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General Authorization/ Letter of Confirmation Permit
Do I need this permit?
A Letter of Confirmation (LOC) under the General Authorization may be for you if:
- You will be conducting scientific research on marine mammal species in the wild that are not listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA; and
- Your research will not exceed Level B harassment
Qualifying activities may include: photo-identification, behavioral observations, aerial surveys, and passive acoustics.
These activities may not be authorized by an LOC:
- research on pinniped rookeries
- import/export of marine mammals or their parts
- research such as tagging or biopsy sampling that would exceed Level B harassment
- research on threatened or endangered marine mammals, such as humpback whales and Steller sea lions
- research on non-mammal species like sea turtles and salmon
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|
|»||NEPA Analysis/ Categorical Exclusion|
|»||Issuance of LOC|
*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you must provide the information within 60 days of the request or the Letter of Intent may be considered abandoned or withdrawn.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:
- online using APPS (preferred method)
- as an email attachment (call our office at 301-427-8401 for an email contact)
- on a CD
- in hard-copy via postal mail to:
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.
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.
- Regulations and Additional Information Related to General Authorization for Scientific Research [pdf]
- Interim Final Rule for General Authorization for Scientific Research [pdf]
Updated November 25, 2013