USA Current Government Programs Related to Cetacean Conservation

The Marine Mammal Commission (Commission) is an independent agency of the U.S. government charged by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to further the conservation of marine mammals and their environment. The Commission works to ensure that marine mammal populations are restored and maintained as functioning elements of healthy marine ecosystems. It provides science-based oversight of domestic and international policies and actions of other U.S. federal agencies with regulatory authority for, or whose actions may affect marine mammals and their ecosystems.

USA Legal Protections

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires all federal agencies to consider the effects of their activities on the human environment. Federal activities that may affect cetacean and other wildlife species, or their habitats, or other components of the human environment, must undergo an environmental analysis under NEPA. Activities that may affect cetaceans include seismic surveying, marine energy development, military exercises, coastal development (e.g., dredging, bridge construction, and port expansions), and scientific research activities.

USA Legal Protections

In the U.S., a cetacean species deemed to be “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range” is protected as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Cetacean species which are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future are protected as “threatened.” The ESA prohibits the taking of any endangered or threatened species, including any distinct population segment (DPS) of a species, subject to certain exceptions.

France Legal Protections

A decree was issued in July 2011 insuring better protection of all marine mammals occurring in the French territories. Under this decree, it is prohibited to harass, catch or kill, voluntarily disturb any individual of all cetacean species across the French territory and in waters under its jurisdiction. Under this decree, habitat destruction and degradation are also prohibited. In addition to this, the same decree also stipulates that transport and trade of any cetacean, dead or alive, or of products processed from cetaceans are similarly forbidden.