Marine Mammal Commission
The Marine Mammal Commission is an independent agency of the U.S. Government, established under Title II of the Act to provide independent oversight of the marine mammal conservation policies and programs being carried out by federal regulatory agencies. The Commission is charged with the following seven duties:
- undertake a review and study of the activities of the United States pursuant to existing laws and international conventions relating to marine mammals, including, but not limited to, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, the Whaling Convention Act of 1949, the Interim Convention on the Conservation of North Pacific Fur Seals and the Fur Seal Act of 1966;
- conduct a continuing review of the condition of the stocks of marine mammals, of methods for their protection and conservation, of humane means of taking marine mammals, of research programs conducted or proposed to be conducted under the authority of this Act, and of all applications for permits for scientific research, public display, or enhancing the survival or recovery of a species or stock;
- undertake or cause to be undertaken such other studies as it deems necessary or desirable in connection with its assigned duties as to the protection and conservation of marine mammals;
- recommend to the Secretary and to other federal officials such steps as it deems necessary or desirable for the protection and conservation of marine mammals;
- recommend to the Secretary of State appropriate policies regarding existing international arrangements for the protection and conservation of marine mammals and suggest appropriate international arrangements for the protection and conservation of marine mammals;
- recommend to the Secretary such revisions of the endangered species list and threatened species list published pursuant to section 4(c)(1) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as may be appropriate with regard to marine mammals; and
- recommend to the Secretary, other appropriate federal officials, and Congress such additional measures as it deems necessary or desirable to further the policies of this Act, including provisions for the protection of the Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts whose livelihood may be adversely affected by actions taken pursuant to this Act.
To fulfill its responsibilities, the Marine Mammal Commission—
- maintains objective overview of domestic and international activities by federal agencies affecting marine mammals;
- provides informed and objective advice to the executive and legislative branches of the federal government on measures needed to achieve the policies and provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act;
- promotes consultations with the scientific community, state agencies, local authorities, and public interest groups to help identify mutually acceptable ways to resolve issues of concern;
- coordinates federal, state, and local efforts to achieve, economically and efficiently, the Act’s stated purposes of conservation of marine mammal species, population stocks, and the ecosystems upon which they depend;
- formulates and promotes implementation of long-term policies to ensure the conservation of marine mammals and other components of the marine ecosystem; and
- carries out a directed research program to inform and guide marine mammal conservation measures at local, regional, national, and international levels.
The Commission is primarily an oversight and advisory body. Although federal agencies are not required to adopt the Commission’s recommendations, the Marine Mammal Protection Act specifies that an agency that declines to follow any such recommendations is required to provide detailed written explanations to the Commission with 120 days.
The Marine Mammal Commission carries out a small research program in support of projects aimed at meeting the conservation and protection goals of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The amount of funds available varies from year to year, depending on the level of congressional appropriations. The Commission encourages the submission of proposals for innovative and well-designed projects that are less likely to be funded by traditional research agencies. On occasion, the Commission provides start-up, or seed money, for promising research projects that may, once proven feasible, be picked up later by other federal agencies. The Commission encourages applicants to have or be seeking funding from other sources as well. Click here for more information about research opportunities.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act was enacted in 1972 in partial response to growing concerns among scientists and the general public that certain species and populations of marine mammals were in danger of extinction or depletion as a result of human activities. The Act set forth a national policy to prevent marine mammal species and population stocks from diminishing, as a result of human activities, beyond the point at which they cease to be significant functioning elements of the ecosystems of which they are a part.
The Act was the first legislation anywhere in the world to mandate an ecosystem approach to marine resource management. In the Act, Congress directed that the primary objective of marine mammal management should be to maintain the health and stability of the marine ecosystem and, when consistent with that primary objective, to obtain and maintain optimum sustainable populations of marine mammals. The ecosystem approach has been incorporated in other U.S. statutes such as the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, in legislation in other countries, and in international agreements such as the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
The Act includes a general moratorium on the taking and importing of marine mammals, subject to a number of exceptions. The Act also established the Marine Mammal Commission and provides the authority under which the Commission operates.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act, as amended, and related legislation are available on this web site.