Management Overview

Northern elephant seals are protected throughout their range under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. NOAA Fisheries is working to protect this species in many ways, with the goal that populations remain stable and do not fall to depleted or threatened levels.


Northern elephant seal juvenile. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Tony Orr.

Conservation Efforts

Minimizing Harassment and Illegal Feeding

As human interactions with seals and sea lions increase, so does the risk of disturbing or injuring these animals. For seals and sea lions that rest on our beaches, close encounters with people are harmful. Continued disturbances may cause mothers to abandon their pups.

Learn more about how to safely and responsibly view seals and sea lions

Learn more about the rules regarding feeding and harassing marine mammals in the wild

Reducing Interactions with Fishing Gear

Northern elephant seals can get entangled in fishing gear, causing injury and possibly death. NOAA Fisheries is working to better understand and characterize the frequency, geographic extent, and magnitude of these interactions. We are also working with researchers to identify and evaluate ways to safely and effectively reduce the potential for these interactions.

Learn more about bycatch and fisheries interactions

Overseeing Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response

We work with volunteer networks in all coastal states to respond to marine mammal strandings. When stranded animals are found alive, NOAA Fisheries and its partners assess the animal’s health and try to return it to the water. When stranded animals are found dead—as is usually the case—our scientists work to understand and investigate the cause of death. Although the cause often remains unknown, scientists can sometimes identify strandings due to disease, harmful algal blooms, vessel strikes, fishing gear entanglements, pollution exposure, and underwater noise. Some strandings can serve as indicators of ocean health, giving insight into larger environmental issues that may also have implications for human health and welfare

Learn more about the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program

Regulatory History

This species is protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended.

Key Documents

A complete list of regulatory and management documents for Northern elephant seals is available.