- What is it?
The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) was enacted in 1972, and was amended in 1994 and in 2007. The MMPA prohibits, with certain exceptions, the “take” of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the U.S. “Take” is defined as to harass, hunt, capture, kill or collect, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, kill or collect.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA-Fisheries) manages the protection of approximately 117 species of marine mammals (whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions) worldwide. Sixty-two marine mammal species are found in U.S. waters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) protects a remaining eight worldwide marine mammal species; (walrus, polar bear, sea otter, marine otter, West African manatee, Amazonian manatee, West Indian manatee, and dugong).
- What has the Army done?
Some Army installations border our nation’s oceans and lakes. These installations are required to protect and conserve marine mammals by minimizing takes from their actions.
- Why is this important?
Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires a federal authorizing or action agency to consult with NOAA-Fisheries on any actions that might affect listed species. If NOAA-Fisheries determines an action is likely to adversely affect a species (this would include any taking actions under the MMPA), formal consultation is required. A Biological Opinion (BO) is prepared by NOAA-Fisheries which assesses whether the action is likely to jeopardize the existence of the species. The BO may include binding and/or discretionary recommendations to reduce impact. An Incidental Take Statement (ITS) is attached to the BO as an appendix and it is this statement which allows the incidental take. An ITS can’t be authorized for a listed marine mammal until the MMPA authorization is completed.
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