Federal Laws Protecting Marine Mammals

A whale head surfaces and exhales air
A blue whale surfacing. Credit: Holly Fearnbach/SWFSC/CSCAPE

The following federal laws and regulations protect whales in the sanctuaries and surrounding waters. Enforcement of these regulations is coordinated by NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, U.S. Coast Guard, and NOAA Office of General Counsel.

National Marine Sanctuary Act (NMSA) - The NMSA prohibits the taking of any marine mammal within the sanctuary. This includes, but is not limited to, the collection of any dead or injured marine mammal, or any part thereof; to restrain or detain any marine mammal, or any part thereof, no matter how temporarily; to tag any marine mammal; to operate a vessel or aircraft or to do any other act that results in the disturbance or molestation of any marine mammal. For more information, please consult the NMSA.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) - The MMPA prohibits the "take" of marine mammals. "Take" includes actions such as hunting, harassing, killing, capturing, injuring, and disturbing a marine mammal. For more information, please consult MMPA text at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr.

Endangered Species Act (ESA) - The ESA prohibits the "take" of a threatened or endangered species in U.S. territorial waters. "Take" under the ESA means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. For more information, please consult ESA text at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr.

Report any violations of these regulations to the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline, 1-800-853-1964.

 humpback whale completely out of the water breaching
A humpback whale breaches clearly out of the water. Credit: Shannon Lyday/ONMS/Point Blue