What We Do

Endangered Species Conservation and Recovery

We are responsible for the conservation, protection, and recovery of more than 150 endangered and threatened marine species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Our work includes:

  • Listing Species under the ESA

  • Monitoring Species Status

  • Designating Critical Habitat

  • Recovery of Endangered and Threatened Species

  • Developing ESA Policies, Guidance, and Regulations

  • Working with partners to conserve and recover species

Marine Mammal Conservation and Management

We are responsible for the conservation, management, and protection of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Our work includes:

  • Conducting marine mammal stock assessments

  • Developing and implementing conservation plans for species designated as depleted under the MMPA.

  • Minimizing bycatch of marine mammals in commercial fishing gear.

  • Requiring mitigation and monitoring during activities (other than commercial fishing) that result in the incidental take of marine mammals.

  • Developing management approaches to address threats to marine mammals

Sea Turtle Conservation and Management 

Since 1977, NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have shared jurisdiction for recovery and conservation of sea turtles listed under the ESA. We lead the conservation and recovery of sea turtles in the marine environment FWS has the lead for the conservation and recovery of sea turtles on nesting beaches. Our work includes:

  • Developing plans to direct research and management efforts for sea turtle recovery

  • Reducing sea turtle bycatch in U.S. commercial fisheries

  • Addressing other major threats to sea turtle recovery

  • Working with other countries to facilitate the global conservation and recovery of sea turtles

Marine Life Health and Stranding Response 

We are responsible for coordinating networks of professional, authorized individuals and organizations to respond to your reports of sick, injured, entangled, or dead marine animals. Our work includes:

  • Marine Mammal Stranding Response

  • Sea Turtle Stranding Response

  • Entanglement response

  • Vessel strike response

  • Conservation medicine

Permitting and Authorizations 

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) make it illegal to “take” (as defined by ESA or as defined by MMPA), export, and import these species or their parts.   

However, there are some exceptions that make it legal to take, export, or import protected animals, such as marine mammals or sea turtles.

By issuing permits and authorizations, NOAA Fisheries is able to:

  • allow important activities to occur that are compliant with the ESA and/or the MMPA,

  • ensure mitigation measures to reduce the impact of such activities are implemented, and

  • keep track of what activities are occurring and how they impact protected species.

Consultations with Federal Agencies under the ESA 

Federal agency consultations on activities that may affect endangered and threatened species  or their habitats are required under section 7 of the ESA.

Interagency consultations are designed to assist federal agencies in fulfilling their duty to ensure that federal actions (e.g., projects or activities) do not jeopardize the continued existence of a species or adversely impact important habitat.

Funding and Grant Support

NOAA Fisheries has several grant programs that provide funding to qualified applicants that assist us with our missions under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act. They include:

  • Species Recovery Grants (to states and tribes)

  • John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program

Our Leadership

Management Team