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Marine Mammal Protection Act: Reauthorization Issues

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Publication Date: June 2004

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL30120

Topic: Environment (Animals)

Abstract:

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) was last reauthorized in 1994. The MMPA's authorization for appropriations expired at the end of FY1999. At issue for Congress are the terms and conditions of provisions designed to reauthorize and amend the MMPA to address concerns relating to marine mammal management. The Congressional Research Service queried commercial fishing, scientific research, public display, animal protection, Native American, and environmental interests to identify the range of issues that might be brought before Congress during a reauthorization debate.

Several issues relate to modifying management of the interactions between marine mammals and commercial fishing operations. Other concerns relate to marine mammals in captivity and subsistence use of marine mammals by Native Americans. Additional issues include providing for trade in marine mammal products, managing robust marine mammal stocks, understanding the effect of noise on marine mammals, fostering international cooperation, regulating large incidental takes, modifying the scientific research permit process, improving agency compliance with MMPA deadlines, facilitating marine mammal research by federal scientists, dealing with harassment of marine mammals, considering a directed research program, and appropriating adequate funding for federal agency programs. While some of these issues could be addressed administratively, in regulations proposed and promulgated by NOAA Fisheries (formerly the National Marine Fisheries Service), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, others likely would require statutory changes.

Most potential participants in the reauthorization debate anticipate extended negotiations on some of these issues. Although the authorization for appropriations expired at the end of FY1999, the MMPA itself did not expire. Eventually, however, an extension of funding authority may need to be considered to continue federal program operations. Most of the issues associated with this law are not timesensitive, and a number of oversight hearings have been held to increase understanding of various positions and possibilities.

This report lays out the range of issues likely to be raised during any reauthorization debate, the reasons behind them, and possible proposals that could be offered to address these concerns. This report will be updated as warranted to reflect the evolution of these issues.