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Marine Mammal Protection Act. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Secretary of Commerce is responsible for ensuring the protection of cetaceans (whales, porpoises, and dolphins) and pinnipeds (seals and sea lions; walruses excepted). .

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Marine Mammal Protection Act

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Marine Mammal Protection Act

  • Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Secretary of Commerce is responsible for ensuring the protection of cetaceans (whales, porpoises, and dolphins) and pinnipeds (seals and sea lions; walruses excepted).


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  • The MMPA established a moratorium, with certain exceptions, on the taking of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and on the importing of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the United States.


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  • The term "take" is statutorily defined to mean "to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal." 


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  • Under the 1994 amendments, the Congress statutorily defined and divided the term "harassment" to mean any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which --

  • Level A Harassment- has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild; or

  • Level B Harassment- has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption or behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering


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  • The 1994 Amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), made a number of changes in the regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals in the course of commercial fishing operations, such as:

  • seven-year goal for reducing incidental serious injury and mortality of marine mammals to insignificant levels approaching a zero mortality and serious injury rate


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  • The 1994 Amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), made a number of changes in the regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals in the course of commercial fishing operations, such as:

  • seven-year goal for reducing incidental serious injury and mortality of marine mammals to insignificant levels approaching a zero mortality and serious injury rate


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Background

  • In the late 1950s, fishermen discovered that yellowfin tuna in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP) aggregated beneath schools of dolphin stocks. Since that discovery, the predominant tuna fishing method in the ETP has been to encircle schools of dolphins with a fishing net to capture the tuna concentrated below. Hundreds of thousands of dolphins died in the early years of this fishery. However, since 1998, there have been approximately 2000 dolphins killed in this fishery each year - down from 133,000 in 1986. This is almost a 99% reduction in dolphin mortality due to international cooperation and the efforts of fishermen employing dolphin saving fishing techniques


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  • Although dolphin mortality has declined dramatically in recent years, there are three dolphin stocks currently listed as depleted: northeastern offshore spotted dolphin, coastal spotted dolphin, and eastern spinner dolphins. 


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Bottlenose Dolphins

  • Major Impacts on Western North Atlantic Coastal Bottlenose Dolphins

  • Parasites and diseases -- During 1987-88 a massive die-off affected the western North Atlantic coastal bottlenose dolphin population. It is estimated that over half the population died during the 11-month epidemic. Possible causes include brevetoxin produced by red tide organisms, environmental contaminants, or natural diseases.

  • Human effects:

    • Fisheries Activities -- Bottlenose dolphins are taken in coastal gillnet fisheries throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The magnitude of this take is not yet quantified.

    • Habitat encroachment and pollution -- The impacts of habitat alteration and pollution on the coastal bottlenose dolphin population have not been studied systematically.


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  • The authority to list species as threatened or  endangered is shared by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which is responsible for listing most marine species, and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which administers the listing of all other plants and animals. There are two classifications under which a species may be listed.


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  • Species determined to be in imminent danger of extinction throughout all of a significant portion of their range are listed as "endangered." 

  • Species determined likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future are listed as "threatened." 


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  • Domestic Endangered SpeciesAtlantic salmon

  • Green sea turtleLeatherback sea turtle

  • Sperm whaleBlue whale

  • Hawaiian monk sealNorthern right whale

  • SteelheadBowhead whaleHawksbill sea turtle

  • Olive ridley sea turtleWhite abalone

  • Caribbean monk sealHumpback whale

  • Sei whaleSmalltooth sawfish

  • Fin whaleKemp's ridley sea turtle

  • Shortnose sturgeon


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  • Domestic Threatened Species

  • Chinook salmon

  • Johnson's sea grassSockeye salmon

  • Coho salmonGuadalupe fur seal

  • Loggerhead sea turtleSteelhead

  • Chum salmonGulf sturgeon

  • Steller sea lion


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