National Inventory of Marine Mammals

NOAA Fisheries maintains an inventory of permanently captive marine mammals under our jurisdiction (whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions) in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Request for Comments on the National Inventory of Marine Mammals

NOAA Fisheries is accepting public comments through July 31, 2019, on proposed policies and procedures for the maintenance of data and administration of the National Inventory of Marine Mammals (NIMM).  Specifically, we seek comments on the maintenance of historical information, reporting births and stillbirths, reporting cause of death, and other administrative procedures for NIMM.

Learn more about the proposed policies and how to comment

What is the National Inventory of Marine Mammals?

In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NOAA Fisheries maintains an inventory of permanently captive marine mammals under our jurisdiction (whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions).  The inventory has been converted to a web-based database, the National Inventory of Marine Mammals (NIMM), that will be available to the public in the future. This database includes animals held in permanent captivity:

  • for public display purposes (required by the MMPA)
  • for scientific research or enhancement (required by permit)
  • for national defense purposes by the U.S. Navy (voluntarily provided)

What Information is in NIMM?

Holders (owners and facilities) must report when a marine mammal enters or leaves their collection.  Required information includes: 

  • Animal name or other identification
  • Sex
  • Estimated or actual birth date
  • Date animal enters and leaves a collection
  • Source of the animal (e.g., capture location)
  • Name of Owner or Facility where an animal is transferred or transported
  • Whether the animal is from a stranding
  • Date and cause of death (when determined)

When Do I Need to Report Inventory Changes?

  • Acquisitions (births, captures, imports) - within 30 days of the event
  • Dispositions (death, release, escape) - within 30 days of the event
  • Notifications of Transfer (ownership change) and/or Transport (location change) - 15 days before the date of transfer and/or transport
    •  The transfer and/or transport must be completed within 60 days of the notification
  • Verifications of Transfer and/or Transport - within 30 days of the event

How do I Review and Update My Inventory Data?

Marine mammal Owners and Facilities do not currently have access their inventory in the National Inventory of Marine Mammals (NIMM) database.  

To review and update your inventory data for your institution, please email your changes to (NIMM.inventory@noaa.gov) or call 301-427-8401.        

At this time, Owners and Facilities need to submit forms to report inventory changes and institution updates.  The following forms provide instructions to Owners and Facilities on how to fill out and submit to our Office:

  • Marine Mammal Data Sheet (MMDS)
    • to report new animals into your collection, use a blank form
    • to provide changes for a specific animal, use that animal’s specific MMDS; you can request a specific animal’s MMDS by contacting us via email (NIMM.inventory@noaa.gov) or by phone at 301-427-8401.        

Each Owner and Facility may designate a Responsible Official and a Primary Contact for their institution. 

  • The Responsible Official is the individual who is responsible for and who has the signatory authority for marine mammal custody decisions for, or as, the Owner, or animal care and disposition decisions at the Facility.
  • The Primary Contact is the registrar or other person responsible for maintaining the marine mammal inventory records for the Owner or at the Facility.

    Can Anyone Request Information from NIMM?

    Yes, anyone may request information from the National Inventory of Marine Mammal database under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). You can request marine mammal inventory data through the FOIA online system. This system allows you to track the progress of your request and retrieve the data electronically. You will need to submit your request under the Department of Commerce, parent Department of NOAA Fisheries.  NIMM will be available to the public online in the future.

    Please consider the following questions when submitting your request:

    Do you need information on

    • a particular owner (who has legal custody) or a particular facility (physical location)?
    • just cetaceans, just pinnipeds, both, or only a particular species?
    • all animals, or just those that are currently alive or deceased?
    • particular source codes (i.e., wild caught, captive born, imported)?

    Other Resources

    • Animal Welfare Concerns: Under the Animal Welfare Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has jurisdiction over animal care and maintenance of marine mammals held in permanent captivity. This includes space, veterinary care, transport, and public interaction programs.

    Last updated by Office of Protected Resources on April 15, 2019