The Importance of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972

Marine Mammal Protection Act

Enacted by Congress in October of 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) is extremely important for the conservation of many marine mammal species. At the time of the law’s creation, there was scientific consensus that the human impact on marine ecosystems was concerning. The populations of marine mammals like seals, whales and porpoises were heavily affected by human activities, so the purpose of the MMPA was to prevent their numbers from dropping to the point where the species could not fulfill their role in the ecosystem. In 1994, the Act was amended to include annual reports of various marine mammal species populations found in U.S. waters, which greatly attributed to research and furthering the knowledge base on marine mammal species. In addition, the MMPA regulates the import and export of all products made from marine mammals, such as ivory.

Specifically, the MMPA prohibits acts or attempts of harassment, killing, and capturing marine mammals without prior approval with a permit. This legislature was the first of its kind in the world, and was an important step for the conservation of our marine ecosystems. It soon sparked global conversations about the protection of these marine species on an international level. It also provides a single, comprehensive, federally-run program for marine mammal conservation, instead of smaller, state-run programs.

The MMPA takes important steps in preventing the number one cause of death among marine mammals: accidental capture in commercial fishing and subsequent fishing line entanglement. This legislature prohibits the importation and selling of fish captured by companies that use fishing technologies that result in death of marine mammals as bycatch. Without the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the populations of iconic marine mammals like whales, dolphins, and seals would be unchecked and most likely demolished due to human activities. It is important to recognize and abide this Act, as it greatly contributes to the success of the conservation of many marine mammal species.


Sources: NOAA, The Humane Society

Posted by Brittany W.

Brittany is a Summer, 2017 Intern at the National Marine Life Center. She is currently attending St. Lawrence University.