The U.S. also protects cetaceans and their habitat through the designation of national marine sanctuaries, authorized under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. National marine sanctuaries, as well as marine national monuments, manage and protect designated areas of the nation’s oceans and Great Lakes and provide habitat for multiple cetacean and other protected species.
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.
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.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) contains provisions to address the incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in both domestic and foreign commercial fisheries. With respect to foreign fisheries, section 101(a)(2) of the MMPA states that the Secretary of the Treasury shall ban the importation of commercial fish or products from fish which have been caught with commercial fishing technology which results in the incidental kill or incidental serious injury of ocean mammals in excess of United States standards.
France, together with Italy and Monaco, have created in 2002 the Pelagos whale sanctuary which encompasses both territorial and international waters of the north-western Mediterranean. This area is summer home range and critical feeding habitat to the isolated population of the Mediterranean fin whale, Baleanoptera physalus, and a diversity of small cetaceans. The management of this valued marine natural heritage in such a heavily anthropised region should benefit to other regions with a similar environmental challenge.
As a member of the European Union, France endorses European regulations on cetacean conservation. Three principal legal frameworks are particularly relevant, the habitat Directive, the Common Fishery Policy and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
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.
An active site-oriented conservation strategy has been developed since April 2006, of the law relative to the establishment of Marine Natural Parks and the creation of the Agency for Marine Protected Areas whose aims are: to support public policies in the field of marine protected areas, regarding both their creation and their management, to manage the human and financial resources dedicated to Marine Natural Parks, to give technical and administrative support to managers of marine protected areas.
In Gabon, there are currently four marine protected areas (Akanda, Pongara, Loango and Mayumba). President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon announced in 2017 at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York his country’s creation of a massive marine protected areas network consisting of 9 new marine parks and 11 aquatic reserves. This initiative expands Gabon’s protected waters by 53,000 sq. km, just over 26% of its Territorial Sea and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Gabonese wildlife is divided into three categories: fully protected (Appendix I), partially protected (II), and unprotected (III). The humpback whale is currently the only cetacean species on Appendix I. However, a revision of these appendices was drafted in 2015. If agreed - the revised Appendix I would include all great whales (Balaenidae, Balaenopteridae, Neobalaenidae, Physeteridae) as well as all beaked whales (Ziphiidae) that might occur and the Atlantic humpback dolphin (Sousa teuszii) greatly threatened across its range.