Fifty years ago in 1972, Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act in response to growing concerns that certain species and populations of marine mammals were in danger of extinction or had been depleted as a result of human activities. In its 50th anniversary year, we are celebrating the science and conservation successes under this historic act.
This Act set the global benchmark for marine mammal conservation as the first piece of legislation to call specifically for an ecosystem-level approach to wildlife protection. Its primary goal is to support sustainable populations of marine mammals based on the capacity of the habitat. Since it was enacted, no marine mammal species have gone extinct in U.S. waters. The Act's protections have stopped the decline of many marine mammal populations and have led to the recovery of several, such as populations of humpback whales, gray whales, gray seals, and California sea lions.
50 Years of Ocean & Coastal Conservation
As part of the anniversary celebration, we reflect on 50 years of marine mammal conservation accomplishments and look forward. We have accomplished a lot, and the status of many marine mammal species has improved. The next decades will bring new conservation challenges in the form of climate change and new and expanded ocean uses, such as offshore wind energy. We will continue to use the best scientific information available to ensure marine mammals are healthy and functioning elements of our ocean’s ecosystems.
This year we're not just celebrating 50 years of the MMPA. Three other foundational environmental acts also share the anniversary: the Clean Water Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.