The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, Amended 1994
The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) protects all marine mammals, including cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), sirenians (manatees and dugongs), sea otters, and polar bears within the waters of the United States.
The Act makes it illegal to "take" marine mammals without a permit. This means people may not harass, feed, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any marine mammal or part of a marine mammal. The Act also formalized the marine mammal health and stranding response program to improve the response of stranding and unusual mortality events. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration web site gives the complete text of the Act.
The MMPA is managed by the federal government. The National Marine Fisheries Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the Department of Commerce, is responsible for managing cetaceans, otariids, and phocids. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the Department of the Interior, is responsible for managing odobenids, sirenians, otters, and polar bears. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, part of the Department of Agriculture, is responsible for regulations managing the facilities that house marine mammals in captivity.
The Endangered Species Act:
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 provides for the conservation of species that are endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of their range, and the conservation of the ecosystems on which they depend.
The Marine Mammal Center works with several endangered marine mammals including blue whales, humpback whale, Hawaiian monk seals, Guadalupe fur seals, and Steller sea lions. Many state and local jurisdictions also have laws to protect marine mammals and endangered species. In addition, international agreements have been negotiated to protect marine mammals.