link to text navigation
Marine Mammal Commission Web site Banner

Legislation - The Marine Mammal Protection Act

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, which is subject to a number of exceptions. The Act also established the Marine Mammal Commission and provides the authority under which the Commission operates.

Download a complete copy (pdf, 582kb)of the MMPA or browse the individual sections below.


Sec. 2. Findings and declaration of policy
Sec. 3. Definitions
Sec. 4. Effective date

Title I - Conservation and Protection of Marine Mammals

Sec. 101. Moratorium and exceptions
Sec. 102. Prohibitions
Sec. 103. Regulations on taking of marine mammals
Sec. 104. Permits
Sec. 105. Penalties
Sec. [ ]. Disposition of fines
Sec. 106. Vessel fine, cargo forfeiture, and rewards
Sec. 107. Enforcement
Sec. 108. International program
Sec. 109. Federal cooperation with States
Sec. 110. Marine mammal research grants
Sec. 111. Commercial fisheries gear development
Sec. 112. Regulations and administration
Sec. 113. Application to other treaties and conventions
Sec. 114. Interim exemption for commercial fisheries
Sec. 115. Status review; conservation plans
Sec. 116. Authorization of appropriations
Sec. [ ]. Dolphin protection
Sec. 117. Stock assessments
Sec. 118. Taking of marine mammals incidental to commercial fishing operations
Sec. 119. Marine mammal cooperative agreements in Alaska
Sec. 120. Pacific Coast Task Force; Gulf of Maine

Title II - Marine Mammal Commission

Sec. 201. Establishment of Commission
Sec. 202. Duties of Commission
Sec. 203. Committee of Scientific Advisors on Marine Mammals
Sec. 204. Commission reports
Sec. 205. Coordination with other Federal agencies
Sec. 206. Administration of Commission
Sec. 207. Authorization of appropriations

Title III - International Dolphin Conservation Program

Sec. 301. Findings and policy
Sec. 302. International Dolphin Conservation Program
Sec. 303. Regulatory authority of the Secretary
Sec. 304. Research
Sec. 305. Reports by the Secretary
Sec. 306. Permits
Sec. 307. Prohibitions

Title IV - Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program

Sec. 401. Establishment of program
Sec. 402. Determination; data collection and dissemination
Sec. 403. Stranding response agreements
Sec. 404. Unusual mortality event response
Sec. 405. Unusual mortality event activity funding
Sec. 406. Liability
Sec. 407. National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank and tissue analysis
Sec. 408. John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program
Sec. 409. Authorization of appropriations
Sec. 410. Definitions


Marine Mammal Commission Home page About the Marine Mammal Commission About the Commission The Library Calendar Site Index Our Staff About this Site Job Vacancies To Contact Us Privacy Notice Disclaimer

Revised | Questions, Comments? Contact Us | How To Find Our Office | Report Error On This Page | Site Index | Marine Mammal Commission