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Marine Mammal Permits and Authorizations

Permit Guide


Scientific Research and Enhancement Permit

General Authorization for Scientific Research

Commercial or Educational Photography Permit

Public Display of Marine Mammals

Marine Mammal Parts

Incidental Take Authorizations

Letter of Authorization (LOA)

Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA)

Taking Marine Mammals During Commercial Fishing Operations

Marine Mammal Permits FAQ

 


Steller Sea Lion
(Eumetopias jubatus)
Photo: Joel Sartore

 

More Information

Responsible Wildlife Viewing

Overview of Marine Mammal Permits
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 the following activities:

Submitting Applications
NOAA Fisheries recommends submitting applications at least 6 months in advance of the intended research start date for non-ESA listed species and at least 1 year in advance for research on ESA-listed species. Permits that involve marine mammals listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) require additional review and processing time under the ESA and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Some species of marine mammals are also protected by the Fur Seal Act (FSA) [pdf], which can mandate additional restrictions.

Processing time for an application starts once the application is determined complete, not on the date received.

Manatees, polar bears, sea otters, walruses, and dugongs are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; you must contact them regarding permits and authorizations for these species.

If you have any questions, please contact the Permits, Conservation and Education Division at 301-427-8401 before submitting an application.

ESA-Listed Marine Mammals
If any of the target species you are requesting a permit/authorization to cover are listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA, you will need to apply for permits and authorizations from the list below.

Non-ESA-Listed Marine Mammals
If none of the target species you are requesting a permit/authorization to cover are listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA, you will need to apply for permits and authorizations for non-listed species from the list below.


Scientific Research and/or Enhancement Permit
A Scientific Research and/or Enhancement permit is required for any proposed research activity that involves"take" with the exception of those activities covered by the General Authorization. Any research involving ESA-listed species also requires a permit. Prior to permit issuance, applications undergo a 30-day public comment period and are reviewed by experts from NOAA Fisheries, the Marine Mammal Commission, and other Federal agencies as appropriate.

NOAA Fisheries recommends submitting applications at least 1 year in advance for research on ESA-listed species and at least 6 months in advance of the intended research start date for non-ESA listed species.

There are two options to apply for a permit:

(1) Apply online via Authorizations and Permits for Protected Species (APPS):

-OR-

(2) Apply by mail or email using the instructions below:

Please submit two copies of your application:

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Commercial or Educational Photography Permit
(This permit applies only to species not listed under the ESA with methods involving "Level B Harassment" only. This permit does not provide any authorization for activities involving ESA-listed species or methods involving "Level A Harassment". Please contact the Permits, Conservation and Education Division at 301-427-8401 for any inquiries regarding photography of ESA-listed species.)

Similar to the restrictions that apply to the General Authorization for Scientific Research, the 1994 MMPA amendments also provided new authority to issue permits for educational and commercial photography involving only Level B Harassment of non-listed marine mammals (i.e., those species not listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA).

For faster processing, please submit your application electronically, which will expedite the review process. However, you will still need to mail a signed original and two hard copies of the application along with the electronic copy.

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Public Display of Marine Mammals
Do you need a public display permit (capture, import or retention of releasables)? Need to report a change to your marine mammal inventory?

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Marine Mammal Parts
Marine mammal parts include any part of a marine mammal, both hard and soft, including parts derived from tissues, such as cell lines and DNA, but do not include urine or feces.

A letter of authorization is required for importing or exporting "pre-Act" marine mammal parts for commercial or personal use.

Pre-Act parts are either those marine mammal parts taken prior to enactment of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972.

If the parts are from endangered or threatened marine mammals listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), they must be at least 100 years old.

If you would like to receive marine mammal parts taken from stranded marine mammals after 1972 for use for scientific research, education, or curation, please contact the appropriate NOAA Fisheries Stranding Network Coordinator.

If you would like to import or export marine mammal parts taken after 1972 for scientific research or enhancement purposes, you will need to apply for a scientific research permit. You will also need to apply for a scientific research permit if you plan on conducting research using marine mammal cell lines.

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Minke Whale
(Balaenopetera acutorostrata)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Bowhead whale
(Balaena mysticetus)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Bowhead Whale Fluke
(Balaena mysticetus)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Brydes Whale calf
(Balaenoptera borealis-edeni)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Long-beaked Common Dolphin
(Delphinus capensis)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Killer Whale
(Orcinus orca)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

False Killer Whale
(Pseudorca crassidens)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Pygmy Sperm Whale
(Kogia breviceps)
Photo: NOAA

Central American Spinner Dolphin
(Stenella longirostrus centroamericana)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Sperm Whale Fluke
(Physeter macrocephalus)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin
(Stenella attenuata)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Striped Dolphin
(Stenella coeruleoalba)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Bottlenose Dolphin
(Tursiops truncatus)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Rough Toothed Dolphin
(Steno bredanensis)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Humpback Whale Fluke
(Megaptera novaeangliae)
Photo: NOAA

Whitebelly Spinner Dolphin
(Stenella longirostris)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Updated: June 1, 2017