Protecting Marine Life

Healthy marine species like whales, sea turtles, coral, and salmon are important for maintaining balanced and thriving ocean ecosystems. We work to protect marine species populations from decline and extinction, conduct research to understand their health and environment, and evaluate and monitor human activities that might affect them to ensure future generations may enjoy them.

Featured News

close up of two dolphin dorsal fins in gray river Dolphins are important sentinels of the health of the marine environment. Credit: Marine Mammal Stranding Center
Aerial image of harbor porpoises swimming Harbor porpoises swim near the Golden Gate in San Francisco Bay, where the porpoises have become more abundant in recent decades. Photo by Bill Keener/The Marine Mammal Center.
People removing juvenile Chinook from a tank in the back of a pickup truck Transportation and unloading of juvenile CCC coho salmon from the hatchery to an area located near Pescadero Creek. Photo: Mary Derr, Public Good PR

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Endangered Species Act

Under the ESA, we protect more than 150 critically imperiled species, including 63 foreign species. We determine which species are listed under the ESA, designate critical habitat, and develop and implement recovery plans.

Green Seagrass Turtle

Marine Mammal Protection Act

The MMPA makes it our job to protect all whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions. This law prohibits, with certain exceptions, the "take" of marine mammals—including harassment, hunting, capture, collection, or killing—in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas.

Leopard seal hauled out on the ice.

Permits & Authorizations

Activities that might impact marine life often require permits and authorizations. These activities can include scientific research, photography, commercial fishing, construction projects, and other actions.

Dolphins cavorting off the Miller Freeman on a beautiful afternoon in the Pacific Ocean


We advise and collaborate with federal agencies and tribes on activities that may impact endangered species, marine mammals, and marine habitats to ensure they are not harmed.

Southern Resident Killer Whales


Our enforcement officers and special agents enforce the laws and regulations meant to ensure the protection of marine mammals and other protected species.

A NOAA law enforcemet boat patrols offshore Maui

Population Assessments

We collect and analyze data on the marine mammal and sea turtle populations by gathering scientific information on a species or stock’s population structure, life history characteristics and productivity rates, abundance, and threats.