Scientific Research Permit for Marine Mammal and Protected Species Parts
A research permit for the collection, receipt, import, and export of parts from protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.
This permit is for research involving the collection, receipt, import, and export of parts from protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. For marine mammals, this means parts collected after December 21, 1972. For ESA-listed species, this means parts collected after December 28, 1973, or the date the species was added to the ESA. Protected species parts permits are valid for a maximum of 5 years.
This permit is for:
- Receipt, import, or export of protected species parts or samples.
- Receipt or collection of parts from U.S. subsistence-hunted marine mammals.
- Development and use of cell lines derived from protected species.
- Salvage of dead ESA-listed species (e.g., listed sturgeon or sawfish).
This permit is not for:
- Collecting samples from live animals. You may need a scientific research permit.
- Collecting or receiving samples from dead or live stranded marine mammals in the United States (this requires a separate authorization- contact your local NMFS stranding coordinator for authorization.
- Receiving samples from within the United States when another authorization is in place.
- Marine mammal parts taken before the enactment of the MMPA (December 21, 1972). These parts are considered Pre-Act and you may need a Letter of Determination.
- Endangered species parts that are 100 years old or older (antique under the ESA). You may need a Letter of Determination.
- Endangered species parts that have been held in a “controlled environment” since December 28, 1973, or the date the species was added to the ESA. These parts are considered Pre-listed and you may need a Letter of Determination.
- Protected species parts under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Obtaining a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permit.
Some marine mammal parts are not regulated and do not need any MMPA or ESA authorization, provided that collection does not involve approaching or the taking of a living marine mammal in the wild. These include:
- Synthetic or replicated samples of DNA, RNA, or proteins without any of the original source part remaining.
- Vomit or stomach contents. Please note:
- Ambergris is a regulated part.
- Stomach contents that contain protected species parts are regulated. For example if a whale has eaten an ESA-listed sea lion, those stomach contents are marine mammal parts and are regulated.
The following parts may not be received or imported into the United States:
- Animals deliberately killed for the express purposes of providing samples.
- Animals taken illegally in the country of origin.
- Marine mammals taken in any high seas driftnet fishery after December 31, 1992.
- Marine mammals taken during whaling activities not approved by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
- Marine mammals taken during whaling activities opposed by the United States.
- Marine mammals taken in a directed cetacean fishery opposed by the United States, including Japanese “drive fisheries.”
What You Will Need
You need to provide:
- A detailed description of your parts and sample sources. Examples may include:
- Animals in captivity (samples taken during routine husbandry procedures or under separate authorization).
- Animals in foreign countries stranded alive or dead or that died during rehabilitation.
- Animals killed during legal subsistence harvests.
- Animals killed incidental to legal commercial fishing operations.
- Samples from other authorized persons or collections.
- A detailed description of the planned research.
- 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 described in your application. Here is an example qualifications form (DOCX, 2 pages).
How to Apply
You should apply at least 6 months (preferably 8 months) prior to the desired start date of research. To expedite processing of your request, apply via APPS, our online application system, following these instructions (PDF, 17 pages). You can use this Word version of the instructions (DOCX, 17 pages) as a template. If we review your application and the instructions were not followed, your application 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 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: if your permit authorizes collection, 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 removing personnel are simple and can be done quickly. Changes such as adding species, increasing numbers, or changing geographic locations, are more involved and will likely require a 30-day comment period and take 4-6 months to process. Changes can be requested via APPS.