Letter of Confirmation Under the General Authorization
This is an expedited and simpler option when studying marine mammals that are not threatened or endangered and using methods that will not exceed Level B harassment.
A Letter of Confirmation (LOC) under the General Authorization is an option for:
- Scientific research on marine mammals that are not threatened or endangered under the ESA, and
- Methods that will not exceed Level B harassment.
The LOC process is simpler and faster than applying for a standard scientific research permit. If your research qualifies for an LOC, you should consider taking advantage of this option.
Qualifying research activities may include: photo-identification, behavioral observations, aerial surveys, including unmanned aircraft systems, and passive acoustics.
These activities may not be authorized by an LOC:
- Research on pinniped rookeries.
- Import or export of marine mammals or their parts.
- Research such as tagging or biopsy sampling that would exceed Level B harassment.
- Research on threatened or endangered marine mammals, such as blue whales and Hawaiian monk seals.
- Research on non-mammal species like sea turtles and salmon.
An LOC can be issued for a maximum of 5 years.
What You Will Need
- A detailed description of your planned research.
- A list of the marine mammal species you may harass and an estimate of how many animals you would encounter annually.
- A current qualifications form (DOCX, 6 pages) for the Principal Investigator and each Co-Investigator. The QF must demonstrate that the qualifications and experience of the person matches their duties as described in your Letter of Intent. Here is an example qualifications form (PDF, 3 pages).
How to Apply
You should apply 4-6 months before the start of your proposed fieldwork. To expedite processing of your Letter of Intent (LOI), apply via APPS, our online application system, following these LOI instructions (PDF, 21 pages). You can use this Word version of the instructions (DOCX, 21 pages) as a template. If we review your LOI and the application instructions were not followed, your LOI will be returned to you.
If you choose not to use APPS, you may send your completed application via:
- Email: email@example.com
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 4–6 months.
- After you submit your LOI in APPS, two permit analysts will be assigned to review your LOI. In some cases we may send your LOI to other subject matter experts.
- Following the initial review, you may be asked for additional information. You should address any questions on the LOI within 60 days or your LOI will be considered abandoned and withdrawn.
- Once your LOI is determined to be complete, processing will continue. Unlike most research permits, an LOC does not require a 30-day public comment period.
- A final decision on your application will be made by the Division Chief.
You can check on the status of your LOI online in APPS, or by contacting your permit analyst.
If your Letter of Confirmation is issued
Regional Notification: you will be required to notify the applicable NOAA Fisheries Regional Office(s) prior to starting your field work each year or season.
Reporting: each year that your LOC 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 LOC: you can request changes to your LOC once it has been issued. Minor changes like adding or removing personnel are simple and can be done relatively quickly. Changes such as adding species, changing locations, or adding new research methods, are more involved and will likely require 2-4 months to process.
- Learn about marine life viewing guidelines.