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Public Display Permit

Do I need a public display permit?

You need a public display permit if you want to:

Public display permits are not available for species listed as depleted under the MMPA or threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Do I need a scientific research permit for research on public display animals?

  1. No, if you are doing non-intrusive research
  2. Yes, if you are conducting intrusive research

Note: For captive animals, intrusive research includes activities that, in the reasonable judgment of the attending veterinarian, would constitute a risk to the health or welfare of the captive animal.

Do I need a permit for enhancement activities on public display animals?

Yes, if your activities are to enhance the survival or recovery of a marine mammal species or stock or to retain non-releasable ESA-listed marine mammals. Examples of enhancement activities are captive breeding for release to the wild and head start programs (e.g., Hawaiian monk seals). Enhancement does not include captive breeding to sustain a captive population for public display purposes.

When should I apply?

The timeline below is an approximation only and the time of issuance of a permit may vary.

Review of application for completeness30-90* days
Initial NEPA determination; if necessary, a document is drafted 
» EA» 30-60 days
» EIS» 365 days (1 year)
Federal Register public comment period30 days
Applicant responds to comments received60 days
Finalize NEPA analysis and Permit Decision30-60 days

*If NMFS requires information during the review or processing of an application, the information must be provided within 60 days or the application may be considered abandoned or withdrawn.

How do I apply?

You must submit an application following the Instructions of Public Display Permits [pdf], also available in Word version. The application can be submitted by mail:

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

You must include one signed original and one electronic copy either via CD or via email (call our office at 301-427-8401 for an email contact).

Permit applications for scientific research or enhancement of marine mammals are available on our permits page.

Do I need a permit to export marine mammals for public display in other countries?

No, you do not need a permit to export marine mammals for public display purposes.  However, the receiving facility must demonstrate that they meet comparable standards.  Please note that species listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA or depleted under the MMPA may not be exported. 

Comparable standards means standards that are similar to those that a facility in the U.S. must meet, which include:

  1. Offering an education or conservation program based on standards of the U.S. public display community;
  2. Obtaining a letter from the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) which indicates that the facility meets comparable Animal Welfare Act (AWA) standards; and
  3. Maintaining facilities that are open to the public.

In addition, the appropriate agency of the foreign government (e.g., the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) management authority of the government) must submit a statement to the NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources certifying that:

  1. The information submitted is accurate;
  2. The government’s laws and regulations permit that the enforcement of requirements equivalent to the requirements of the MMPA and AWA, and that government will enforce such requirements; and
  3. The government will act upon requests made by NOAA Fisheries should the foreign facility act in a manner inconsistent with the requirements of the MMPA, AWA, or the foreign government’s comparable laws.

More Information

Updated: October 30, 2013