Marine Mammal Commission

Our Mission

In 1972, the MMPA established the Marine Mammal Commission to provide independent oversight of the marine mammal conservation policies and programs being carried out by federal regulatory agencies.

Harbor seals on ice

Harbor seals on ice. (NOAA Fisheries)

The Marine Mammal Commission provides independent, science-based oversight of domestic and international policies and actions of federal agencies addressing human impacts on marine mammals and their ecosystems. Our mission is largely driven by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The MMPA was enacted in October 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 MMPA set forth a national policy to prevent marine mammal species and population stocks from diminishing beyond the point at which they cease to be significant functioning elements of the ecosystems of which they are a part.

Duties under the MMPA

Our role is unique

We are the only U.S. government agency that provides comprehensive oversight of all science, policy, and management actions affecting marine mammals.

The Commission is charged with the following seven duties, as defined under section 202 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA):

  1. 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;
  2. 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 the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and of all applications for permits for scientific research, public display, or enhancing the survival or recovery of a species or stock;
  3. 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;
  4. recommend to the Secretary [of Commerce or the Interior] and other federal officials such steps as it deems necessary or desirable for the protection and conservation of marine mammals;
  5. 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;
  6. recommend to the Secretary [of Commerce or the Interior] 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
  7. recommend to the Secretary [of Commerce or the Interior], other appropriate federal officials, and Congress such additional measures as it deems necessary or desirable to further the policies of the Act, including provisions for the protection of the Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts whose livelihood may be adversely affected by actions taken pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

In addition to the MMPA, other important legislation has been enacted to protect and conserve marine mammals and their ecosystems.

Learn More about the Marine Mammal Commission

About the Commission: One-Page Infographic

About the Commission: One-Page Handout

2017 Annual Report

FY 2015–2019 Strategic Plan

Contact Us

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