What We Do

U.S. marine resource laws exist to ensure sustainable fish populations, protect threatened marine species and the habitats they live in and to ensure these resources are around for future generations to enjoy. When people cheat and willfully violate fishery management regulations it puts those who comply with the rules at a significant disadvantage. When people harass or harm protected marine species, such as whales, dolphins or sea turtles, it threatens the survivability and, ultimately, the future of the species.

The mission of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is to not let that happen.

OLE is dedicated to enforcing laws that conserve and protect our nation’s marine resources and their natural habitat. We ensure a level playing field for honest fishermen, defend U.S. economic and public health interest from illegal international and domestic fishing activities, and protect vulnerable marine species in order to ensure these global resources do not disappear.

Learn more about enforcement
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement protects marine wildlife and habitat by enforcing domestic laws and supporting international treaty requirements designed to ensure global resources are available for future generations. OLE special agents, enforcement officers, as well as investigative and mission support staff provide stakeholders with compliance assistance and education about the nation’s marine resource laws.

OLE directly supports the core mission mandates of NOAA Fisheries— maximizing productivity of sustainable fisheries and fishing communities, as well as protection, recovery, and conservation of protected species—through its efforts to enforce and promote compliance with the marine resource protection laws and implementing regulations under NOAA’s purview.

OLE jurisdiction generally covers ocean waters between 3 and 200 miles offshore and adjacent to all U.S. states and territories; this is called the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The OLE jurisdiction includes:

  • 3.36 million square miles of open ocean.
  • More than 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline.
  • 13 National Marine Sanctuaries and five Marine National Monuments.

OLE conducts enforcement activities through patrols both on and off the water as well as monitoring vessels electronically; criminal and civil investigations; partnerships with state, tribal, federal, and nongovernmental organizations; outreach and compliance assistance; and the use of innovative technological tools.

Our Leadership