Watching Marine Mammals
All marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA). Some of these animals are also protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These laws prohibit the take of any marine mammal except by permit or exception. The term take means to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal, or attempt such conduct. Any actions by people, or by vessels or aircraft they’re operating in the vicinity of marine mammals, that substantially alter the behavior of those animals, may be a violation of the law. The exception is if such people have specific legal authority or a permit issued under the MMPA. Violators of the Marine Mammal Protection Act may be subject to a civil penalty of as much as $10,000 for each violation; or criminal prosecution with a fine of as much as $100,000 or imprisonment for as much as one year, or both.
Human activities in the vicinity of marine mammals may harass these animals, resulting in a range of impacts. These could vary from no observable effect, to modifying behavior, to causing physical harm to animals. Activities that harass marine mammals can cause detrimental effects such as separation of mother whales and their calves; disruption of migratory patterns; disruption of social groups such as killer whale pods; interference in breeding and reproductive activities; and abandonment of nursing pups and/or rearing activities.
The guidelines provided in the links here are intended to protect marine mammals, and to benefit and protect the general public. An occurrence such as a vessel/whale collision could be detrimental to both the animal and the people involved. People need to be careful when they're close to marine mammals. Public cooperation in adhering to these guidelines is essential to protect these animals. You should report observations of marine mammal harassment to NOAA Fisheries or state law enforcement offices.
To report a dead, injured or stranded marine mammal, please call: 1-800-853-1964
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