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Apply for an Incidental Take Authorization

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In looking at the effects of activities, we use the best available information, which may include information from:

To aid us in making the necessary findings and determinations, we then analyze how your proposed activities may specifically impact:

Submitting an Application

To obtain an Incidental Take Authorization (ITA), you must, by regulation, submit a request for authorization and an application to NOAA Fisheries' Office of Protected Resources. Please submit your request and application in both hard copy and electronically via email to:

Jolie Harrison, Division Chief
Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources,
1315 East-West Highway, F/PR1 Room 13805,
Silver Spring, MD 20910


Sample Letter for Submitting a Request for an Incidental Take Authorization


Jolie Harrison, Division Chief
Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources,
1315 East-West Highway, F/PR1 Room 13805,
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Dear Ms. Harrison:

Please find the attached request for an incidental take authorization under section 101(a)(5) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended, for the take of marine mammals incidental to conducting [activity] by [applicant].

The [applicant] plans to conduct [activity] in the [specific areas or ecosystems] to [purpose] from [date range]. Because the [applicant's] activities have the potential to cause [type of taking] of marine mammals, we are requesting [an Incidental Harassment Authorization or regulations and Letters of Authorization].

We look forward to working with you and your staff to answer any questions you may have about this application. Please feel free to contact [applicant's primary contact and contact number/email] with additional questions.

What do I include in my application?

The ITA application must include 14 specific pieces of information, as required by regulation (50 CFR § 216.104(a)). Please visit our main Incidental Take Authorization page to see examples of current applications. When fully addressed, these 14 pieces of information are designed to provide a narrative that explains, in detail, your action, the nature of the action's anticipated effects on marine mammals, their habitats, and the availability of marine mammals for subsistence uses, and the methods of mitigating, monitoring, and reporting on the effects of the action. 

Section 1: Description of Specified Activity

"A detailed description of the specific activity or class of activities that can be expected to result in incidental taking of marine mammals."

This section is, very basically, your opportunity to describe what you plan to do. You should deconstruct the activity into pieces that can be analyzed for their potential impacts to marine mammals. The narrative should include:

Section 2: Dates, Duration, and Specified Geographic Region

"The date(s) and duration of such activity and the specified geographical region where it will occur."

Here, you should describe when and where you will conduct your activities, including duration and frequency of discrete actions. The regulations [216.104(a)(2)] require discussion of a specified geographic region where the activities will occur. You should break down the activity by geographic location and duration as much as possible:

Section 3: Species and Numbers of Marine Mammals

"The species and numbers of marine mammals likely to be found within the activity area."

At this point, you will have fully described your specified action and can now begin to provide the information that will be used to analyze impacts to marine mammals. Here, you should describe/list all species of marine mammals found in the activity area at any time, including:

Below is a sample table you can include in this part of your application to quickly summarize the needed information for each marine mammal species, which includes special status under the MMPA or Endangered Species Act:

Common Name Scientific Name Status Occurrence Seasonality Range Abundance

Section 4: Affected Species Status and Distribution

"A description of the status and distribution, including seasonal distribution (when applicable), of the affected species or stocks of marine mammals likely to be affected by such activities."

Here, you provide us with additional information about the species that you expect to take (i.e., all species listed in your response to Section 3 and not subsequently ruled out). The additional information needed for each species for which take may occur includes:

Section 5: Type of Incidental Taking Authorization Requested

"The type of incidental taking authorization that is being requested (i.e., takes by harassment only; takes by harassment, injury, and/or death) and the method of incidental taking."

You must describe the anticipated type (e.g., "Level B" harassment) and method (i.e., activity component) of taking. Take could result from:

Methods of incidental taking include:

Be sure to specifically list if different activity components have the potential to result in different taking methods.

Sample Language for Response to Section 5:

The [applicant] requests the issuance of [an Incidental Harassment Authorization or regulations and Letters of Authorization] pursuant to Section 101(a)(5) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) for incidental take of [number of species] by [type of taking] during its planned [activity] during the period of [date range].

The activities outlined in Section 1 have the potential to take marine mammals by [type of taking]. Take will potentially result from the following specific aspects of the proposed [activity]: [list activity components here].

Section 6: Take Estimates for Marine Mammals

"By age, sex, and reproductive condition (if possible), the number of marine mammals (by species) that may be taken by each type of taking identified in Section 5, and the number of times such takings by each type of taking are likely to occur."

This section must specify the number of estimated takes by each type of taking (e.g., Level B harassment, lethal takes) and by activity type. You must discuss how you arrived at your take estimates. You may have differing amounts of information upon which to base take estimates, and you may use different methods; most important is that the methodology used is defensible and that the take estimate is not arbitrary. Narratives in this section typically consider:

Please Note: NOAA has new acoustic guidance which includes new dual thresholds for onset of Permanent Threshold Shift (Level A take).  More information on NOAA's new acoustic guidance can be found here

Descriptions of take should be context-specific when possible (especially important in situations involving dependent young). For example, if there were an important time/area for calving, you should parse out number of takes that might occur at that time/place.

Below is a sample table you can use to briefly summarize the information you used to quantify your take estimates:

Estimated Take

Species Estimated Density Level B Harassment Level A Harassment Mortality Abundance of Stock Percentage of Stock Taken Stock Population Trend

Section 7: Anticipated Impact of the Activity

"The anticipated impact of the activity to the species or stock of marine mammal."

Here is where you place the take estimates from Section 6 into a meaningful context. Please make a case for why the predicted future impacts (described in Section 6) constitute a negligible impact to the relevant species or stocks. You should describe how these individual impacts may or may not impact the long-term health of individuals or how the described takes may or may not affect the viability of the population, species, or stocks. To aid us in making a "negligible impact" determination, you should specifically address:

If data do not exist in your precise activity location, , please refer to information and data for the same type of activity in other regions.

Section 8: Anticipated Impacts on Subsistence Uses

"The anticipated impact of the activity on the availability of the species or stocks of marine mammals for subsistence uses." (This issue is only applicable in Alaska.)

You must provide support for the second determination we must reach prior to issuing an ITA: no unmitigable adverse impact. Similar to Section 7, you should make the argument that your actions would not constitute an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of marine mammals for subsistence uses. Instead of assessing impacts to the animals (which you have done in your response to Section 7), this Section assesses how your proposed activities have the potential to impact the ability of Alaska Natives to conduct subsistence hunts.

To aid us in making a no "unmitigable adverse impact" determination, please describe the following:

Bowhead whale subsistence hunting: We do not estimate a level of take in reaching the "unmitigable adverse impact" finding. However, studies have shown that bowhead whales may react to sound below our Level B behavioral criterion for pulsed sound sources (i.e., 160 dB rms) in a manner that we do not consider a take but which could potentially impact the availability of the animals for subsistence uses (e.g., a minor deflection in migration, which while not likely biologically significant, could increase the difficulty or danger for hunters pursuing the whales). Therefore, we often qualitatively assess impacts that could potentially occur to subsistence hunts if sounds down to 120 dB (rms) enter the typical hunting grounds for bowhead whales. For that reason, we often ask you to provide the 120 dB isopleths for sound sources in applications for activities that occur in locations with active bowhead whale subsistence hunts.

Sample language if there are no impacts to subsistence uses:

"There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by this action."

Section 9: Anticipated Impacts on Habitat

"The anticipated impact of the activity upon the habitat of the marine mammal populations and the likelihood of restoration of the affected habitat."

Please describe what effects your activity may have on marine mammal habitat, including anticipated:

If you do not anticipate impacts to habitat, please explicitly state and provide appropriate justification as to why.

Section 10: Anticipated Effects of Habitat Impacts on Marine Mammals

"The anticipated impact of the loss or modification of the habitat on the marine mammal populations involved."

Here, you place the impacts to habitat described in the response to Section 9 into meaningful context. That is, what do those impacts to habitat mean for marine mammal populations? You should discuss if:

Section 11: Mitigation Measures

"The availability and feasibility (economic and technological) of equipment, methods, and manner of conducting such activity or other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact upon the affected species or stocks, their habitat, and their availability for subsistence uses, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance."

This Section focuses on the proposed mitigation measures that you will implement to ensure that the effects of your activity are mitigated to the level of least practicable adverse impact, regardless of the nature or intensity of those effects. Our evaluation of potential mitigation measures considers the:

You should clearly state and describe which mitigation measures you plan to implement and under what scenarios. Any mitigation measures should have a reasonable likelihood of accomplishing or contributing to one or more of these general goals:

Section 12: Arctic Plan of Cooperation

"Where the proposed activity would take place in or near a traditional Arctic subsistence hunting area and/or may affect the availability of a species or stock of marine mammal for Arctic subsistence uses, you must submit either a plan of cooperation (POC) or information that identifies what measures have been taken and/or will be taken to minimize any adverse effects on the availability of marine mammals for subsistence uses. " (This requirement is applicable only for activities that occur in Alaskan waters north of 60° North latitude.)

A plan of cooperation or relevant information must include the following:

Sample language if your activity does not take place in or near a traditional Arctic subsistence hunting area and/or will not affect the availability of a species or stock of marine mammal for Arctic subsistence uses:

"Not applicable. The proposed activity will take place off [describe area here], and no activities will take place in or near a traditional Arctic subsistence hunting area. Therefore, there are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by this action."

Section 13: Monitoring and Reporting

"The suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species, the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present while conducting activities and suggested means of minimizing burdens by coordinating such reporting requirements with other schemes already applicable to persons conducting such activity. Monitoring plans should include a description of the survey techniques that would be used to determine the movement and activity of marine mammals near the activity site(s) including migration and other habitat uses, such as feeding."

Your monitoring and reporting measures should:

Note that there are two types of monitoring: mitigation monitoring (i.e., observation) required to implement specific mitigation measures, and general monitoring, which is performed in order to accomplish the objectives above. This Section is relevant to the general monitoring.

Monitoring should improve our understanding of one or more of the following:

If your activity will occur in waters north of 60° North latitude and has the potential to affect the availability of marine mammals for subsistence uses, the monitoring plan must be independently peer reviewed. A panel of independent scientists reviews the monitoring plan to determine if stated objectives can be met and to propose changes or additions to the plan.

Reporting should discuss the results of the monitoring program and implementation of the mitigation measures, including:

Monitoring often involves trained biological observers to observe animals, conduct counts, and record behaviors (including behavioral reactions to stimuli) before, during, and after activity. Please discuss how you plan to report on the movement and activity of marine mammals near the operations area. If available, please summarize past monitoring results from the same or similar activities. We share the reports with the public, and we may use the data to evaluate similar activities in the future.

Section 14: Suggested Means of Coordination

"Suggested means of learning of, encouraging, and coordinating research opportunities, plans, and activities relating to reducing such incidental taking and evaluating its effects."

You should briefly discuss how you intend to coordinate (if practicable) your activities, as well as whether and how you intend to share information, with other organizations to minimize incidental take of marine mammals. 

Paperwork Reduction Act

All documentation, including the application, reports, and any other associated documents are considered public information and as such, are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act, unless that collection of information displays a currently valid OMB Control Number.

OMB No. 0648-0151
Expires: March 31, 2017

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Updated: September 6, 2016