Scientific Research and Enhancement Permits for Marine Mammals
A permit is required for any proposed research or enhancement activity that involves "take" of marine mammals with the exception of those activities covered by the General Authorization.
These permits are for research or enhancement activities conducted on marine mammals protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act. Examples include:
- Biopsying blue whales.
- Capturing and sampling harbor seals.
- Tagging California sea lions.
- Photo-identifying North Atlantic right whales.
- Vaccinating Hawaiian monk seals.
If you plan to conduct research on non-ESA listed marine mammals that involves only Level B harassment, a General Authorization is the fastest and easiest way to get authorization. If you will only be working with marine mammal parts or samples, you may need to apply for a parts permit.
This permit is not for:
- Conducting research on marine mammals under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: polar bears, walrus, sea otters, manatees, and dugongs.
- Filming/photographing marine mammals for a commercial or educational project like a television documentary. You may be eligible for a photography permit.
Marine mammal scientific research and enhancement permits can be issued for a maximum of 5 years.
What You Will Need
- A detailed description of your research objectives and methods.
- A table of all the marine mammal 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 researcher qualifications form (DOCX, 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 desired start date of your project, if your research involves threatened or endangered marine mammals.
- Six months before the desired start date of your project, if your research involves only non-listed marine mammals.
To expedite processing of your request, apply via APPS, our online application system, following the application instructions (PDF, 25 pages). A Word version of the instructions is also available (DOCX, 25 pages). 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 via:
1. Email: email@example.com
2. Fax: (301) 713-0376
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 the species are listed as threatened or endangered.
- 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. Parts applications that include marine mammal parts will be sent to the Marine Mammal Commission for their review and comment.
- 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.