ESA Scientific Research and Enhancement Permits
A scientific research and/or enhancement permit is required for any person planning to conduct any activity resulting in the "take" of an endangered or threatened species under NOAA Fisheries' jurisdiction.
These permits are for research or enhancement activities conducted on species protected under the Endangered Species Act. This permit is often referred to as an ESA 10(a)(1)(A) permit.
The information on this page is for obtaining an ESA 10(a)(1)(A) permit for:
- Sawfish (largetooth and smalltooth)
- Sea turtles (in water)
- Sturgeon (Atlantic and shortnose)
Permits for research or enhancement on Pacific marine and anadromous fish (e.g., salmon, green sturgeon, eulachon) and abalone are processed by the NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region.
If you're looking for permits for corals, Johnston sea grass, Atlantic salmon, or any other ESA-listed species, we recommend you complete our Pre-Application Guide, which will direct you to the right place.
Examples of research and enhancement activities include:
- Capturing and tagging sea turtles (in water).
- Capturing and collecting biological samples from smalltooth sawfish.
- Holding captive shortnose sturgeon for enhancement purposes.
This permit is not for:
- Conducting research or enhancement activities on marine mammals. Depending on your research, you may need an MMPA/ESA permit or Letter of Confirmation under the General Authorization.
- Activities on sea turtles on land. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has jurisdiction over sea turtles on land.
The maximum duration of this type of permit varies by species:
- Sturgeon (Atlantic and shortnose): 10 years
- Sea turtles: 10 years
- Sawfish: 5 years
A permit may be issued for up to 10 years if the activities have been analyzed as part of an ESA programmatic Section 7 consultation.
What You Will Need
- A detailed description of your research objectives and methods.
- A table of all the threatened and endangered species you may take, either directly or indirectly, and how many animals may be exposed to each research activity.
- A description and map of your study area.
- Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocols and approvals, as applicable.
- A current qualifications form [Word, 7 pages], biosketch, or CV to demonstrate the qualifications and experience of the Principal Investigator and Co-Investigators with the duties described in the application.
How to Apply
You should apply:
- One year before the start of your proposed research for sawfish
- By April 1st, annually, for sea turtle research or enhancement activities
- By August 1st, annually, for Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon research or enhancement activities
Recently, we created a permit cycle for sea turtle and sturgeon permit actions. If you submit your application by the due dates above, your action will be batched with other, similar permit actions for more efficient processing.
To expedite processing of your request, apply via APPS, our online application system, following the Instructions for applying for an ESA Scientific Research or Enhancement permit (24 pages, pdf). A Word version of the application instructions (24 pages) is also available. Please note, if the instructions are not followed, the application will be returned to you.
If you choose not to use APPS, you may send your completed application by:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fax: 301-713-0376, or
Permits and Conservation Division
Office of Protected Resources
1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910-3282
What Happens After You Submit
You can expect your application to be processed within 6- 12 months, depending on whether or not there is an ESA programmatic Section 7 consultation in place for your species.
- After you submit your application in APPS, two permit analysts will be assigned to review the application.
- Following the initial review, you may be asked for additional information. You should address any questions on the application within 60 days or your application will be considered abandoned and withdrawn.
- Once the application is determined to be complete, we will publish a notice in the Federal Register, which starts a mandatory 30-day public comment period. We will also send your application to subject matter experts (e.g., partner institutions, federal agencies, and state organizations) for review.
- You may be asked to address any questions received during the comment period.
- A final decision on your application will be made by the Office Director.
You can check on the status of your application online in APPS, or by contacting your permit analyst.
If your permit is issued:
You will need to sign your permit and return a copy of the signature page to us.
Regional Notification: you will be required to notify the applicable NOAA Fisheries Regional Office(s) 2 weeks prior to starting your field work each year or season.
Reporting: each year that your permit is valid, you will be required to submit an annual report. Reports can be submitted via APPS, our online application system. Learn more about reporting requirements.
Changes to your permit: you can request changes to your permit once it has been issued. Minor changes like adding or deleting personnel are simple and can be done quickly. Changes such as adding species, increasing numbers, or expanding your study area, are more involved and will likely require a 30-day comment period and take 6-12 months to process. Changes can be requested via APPS.