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NOAA Fisheries
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Acropora palmata thicket on Mona Island, Puerto Rico. Andy Bruckner, 1996Coho salmon painting, Canadian Dept of Fisheries and OceansMonk seal, C.E. BowlbyHumpback whale, Dr. Lou Herman
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Marine Mammal Permit Regulation Revisions


NMFS is considering changes to the regulations implementing the Section 104 permit provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to clarify existing permitting procedures and to codify procedures being implemented through agency policy.

These regulations govern issuance of scientific research and enhancement permits for marine mammals, including threatened and endangered species. These regulations also cover the General Authorization for Scientific Research, photography permits, and public display permits.

Public Participation Opportunities
As part of the process, NMFS is preparing an environmental assessment (EA) to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of promulgating revised regulations governing permit procedures and conditions. NMFS requests public participation in the scoping process that will help identify alternatives and determine the scope of environmental issues to be addressed in the EA.

NMFS has developed a Scoping Document [pdf] with proposed revisions, additions, and restructuring of the marine mammal permit regulations. This Scoping Document contains proposed regulatory language but does not necessarily represent a preferred alternative.

More information can be found in the Notice of Intent published in the Federal Register (75 FR 11130).

Comments about the EA or on the Scoping Document must have been received by June 10, 2010 (75 FR 16747)

On May 10, 1996, a final rule was published establishing requirements for issuing permits and authorizations to take, import, or export marine mammals (including endangered and threatened marine mammals) and marine mammal parts under NMFS jurisdiction for purposes of scientific research and enhancement, photography, and public display.

NMFS published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) in the Federal Register (72 FR 52339, September 13, 2007) proposing changes to implementing regulations (50 CFR 216, Subpart D) governing the issuance of permits under Section 104 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and solicited public input on the proposed changes or any other changes commenters deemed appropriate.

The ANPR solicited input from the public on specific recommended changes to the regulations (as listed below) and how NMFS can streamline, clarify, or change sections of these regulations to improve the process for obtaining a permit (see 50 CFR Subpart D-Special Exceptions, sections 216.30-216.45). We also considered recommendations regarding changes to any of the sections of 50 CFR part 216 prior to proposed rulemaking.

Specific recommended changes proposed in the ANPR include the following:

  • Changing requirements regarding National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) determinations such that NEPA documentation is not required at the time an application is made available for public review and comment.
  • Allowing only minor amendments to original permits, not major vs. minor as currently exists; any proposed change such as an increased level of take would require a new permit since the regulatory process for issuing a major amendment is currently consistent with processing a new application.
  • Applying the General Authorization (GA) to research activities involving Level A harassment of non-ESA listed marine mammals; currently the GA only applies to research activities that result in Level B harassment.
  • Implementing a "permit application cycle" for application submission and processing of all marine mammal permits;
  • Consolidating sections of the regulations that pertain to the transfer of marine mammal parts (including those taken from non-listed stranded animals and those taken under permit from both listed and non-listed marine mammals) to provide consistency and eliminate confusion in interpretation.
  • Adding provisions for long-term captive maintenance of non-releasable ESA-listed marine mammals.
  • Writing regulations for photography permits such that it would be similar to the GA process.

More Information

Updated: September 19, 2013

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