Frequently Asked Questions about the Marine Mammal Authorization Program

Frequently Asked Questions about the Marine Mammal Authorization Program 

Q: What is the Marine Mammal Authorization Program (MMAP)?

A: The MMAP is a fishermen’s registration program that provides an exemption for commercial fishermen from the Marine Mammal Protection Act’s (MMPA) prohibition on the taking of marine mammals. The MMAP is also used to provide information to fisherman regarding specific federal marine mammal regulations that apply to fisheries.

Q: What does it mean to “take” a marine mammal?

A: The MMPA defines “take” as to harass, hunt, capture, or kill or attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal. Even accidental take is prohibited.  There are certain exemptions, like the one for commercial fisheries under the MMAP.

Q: What is a Category I and a Category II fishery?

A: NOAA Fisheries is required to categorize every state and federal commercial fishery based on the likelihood of causing serious injury or mortality to a marine mammal. Category I fisheries have frequent incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals; Category II fisheries have occasional incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals and Category III fisheries  have little, or are not known to cause, incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals.

Q: How does NOAA Fisheries categorize each fishery?

A: NOAA Fisheries considers all the available information on marine mammal interactions with each fishery, mostly from observer data but also from other sources, such as stranding data. NOAA Fisheries also considers the population status of the marine mammal species or stock that may be affected. For example, a small number of fishery takes of a very abundant stock may translate to a Category III fishery; the same number of takes of an endangered species may result in a Category I.

Q: Where are categorizations of fisheries published?

A: NOAA Fisheries must publish a List of Fisheries (LOF) each year with an updated categorization of each commercial fishery. The LOF includes a full discussion of the categorization process and any changes from the previous year. NOAA Fisheries requests and responds to public comments on the LOF before finalizing each year’s list. The LOF can be found at:  http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/interactions/fisheries/lof.html

Q: How do I know what Category my fishery in?

A. Fishery categorizations can be accessed from the LOF available at  http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/interactions/fisheries/lof.html

Q: Why do I have to be registered?

A: Commercial fishermen in Category I and Category II fisheries must be registered for the MMAP. If they are not registered and they incidentally “take” a marine mammal while fishing, they can be prosecuted for that take under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).  

Q. How do I register for the MMAP?

A. Commercial fishermen in the Southeast U.S. are registered automatically. Any person holding a state or federal permit for a Category I or II fishery in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas or federal (U.S. fisheries) waters are automatically registered for the MMAP. Commercial fishermen in these categories are reminded through yearly mailings to obtain an updated Authorization Certificate. Commercial fishermen who believe they should be registered but have not been, or who want to verify their registered should contact the MMAP Hotline at 727-209-5952.

Q: I won’t fish in a Category I or II fishery this year. Why was I registered?

A. NOAA Fisheries deduces who should be registered from existing records, so sometimes fishermen are registered when they don’t need to be. This can happen because fishery permits do not always match LOF categories, records hold outdated information, fisherman do not always use a permit, or other reasons. It is better to be registered unnecessarily than to not be registered when required, so NOAA Fisheries automatically registers anyone whose permit or license suggests participation.

Q: I was registered in error. What should I do?

A. There is no need to take action.  Simply, discard the letter.

Q: Why did I get automatically registered, if I only participate in a Category III fishery?

A: NOAA Fisheries is using information from existing state and federal licensing or permitting systems to automatically register Category I and II fishermen. However, at times, the information in the permitting systems does not match precisely with the way fisheries are defined in the LOF. When we are unable to determine with confidence that a commercial fisherman only participates in a Category III fishery, we automatically register the fisherman. This ensures that we do not accidentally miss fishermen who, even occasionally, fish in a Category I or II fishery and are required to be registered.

Q: Do I have any responsibilities as a Category III fishery participant? 

A: If you only participate in a Category III fishery, you do not have to be registered in the MMAP. However, you are still required, as all fishermen are required, to report the incidental take of a marine mammal that results in injury or mortality to NOAA Fisheries within 48 hours of the end of the fishing trip.

Q: I am registered correctly. Is there anything else I need to do regarding the MMAP?

A: While fishing in a Category I or II fishery, you must comply with the following terms and conditions:

  • Keep the current year Authorization Certificate, or a copy, on board the vessel. This certificate, in combination with a valid state or federal fishing permit, will serve as your authorization under the MMPA to incidentally take marine mammals during commercial fishing operations. In the case of non-vessel fisheries, the certificate, or a copy, must be in the possession of the person in charge of the operation.
  • Report all injuries and mortalities of marine mammals within 48 hours of returning from the trip during which the takes occurred using the Mortality/Injury reporting form.
  • Allow an observer aboard your vessel, if requested by NOAA Fisheries or our designate.
  • Comply with any take reduction plans or emergency regulations that may apply to your specific fishery.

 

Q. Where do I get an Authorization Certificate?

A. Authorizations Certificates for the current year can be downloaded: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/protected_resources/marine_mammal_authorization_program/document/authorization_certificate.pdf or you may request to have one mailed to you by calling the MMAP Hotline at: (727) 209-5952.

Q. What do I do if I “take” a marine mammal?

A. Report all injuries and mortalities of live or dead marine mammals within 48 hours of returning from the trip during which the takes occurred using the Mortality/Injury reporting form. If the animal is alive, release the animal quickly, removing as much gear as possible. 

Q: Where do I get Mortality/Injury reporting forms?

A: The Mortality/Injury reporting forms can be downloaded at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/interactions/mmap_reporting_form.pdf; you may also request copies by calling the MMAP Hotline at 727-209-5952.  

Q. Where do I send my completed Mortality/Injury reporting form?

A: You may send the Mortality/Injury reporting form via:
Fax: (301) 427-2522
Mail:
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service
Office of Protected Resources (F/PR2)
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3326

Q: What consequences will I face if I report that I have incidentally injured or killed a marine mammal?

A: If registered in the program, there are no consequences for reporting an injured or dead marine mammal. All fishermen, regardless of the category of fishery they participate in or whether an observer is on board, are required to report incidental takes of marine mammals. The information you provide is extremely important, as it helps NOAA Fisheries and fishery representatives collect the most accurate, unbiased, and relevant information to develop appropriate management strategies that reduce take levels and at the same time, have the least impact on fishing practices.

Q: What are take reduction plans?

A: Take Reduction Plans (TRPs) are plans developed by teams of stakeholders, including commercial fishermen, to assist in the recovery or to prevent the depletion of marine mammals that are incidentally seriously injured or killed in Category I or II fisheries. They may include regulations, and they are often accompanied by non-regulatory conservation measures.

Q: What take reduction plan requirements do I have to abide by?

A: There are five TRPs that may apply to fishermen in the Southeast U.S.:

  • Atlantic Large Whale TRP (Maine through Florida (East Coast)) – affects the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic lobster trap/pot, Northeast sink gillnet, Northeast drift gillnet, Northeast anchored float gillnet, Mid-Atlantic gillnet, Southeastern U.S. Atlantic shark gillnet, the Southeast Atlantic gillnet fisheries, Atlantic mixed species trap/pot, Atlantic blue crab trap/pot, and Southeastern U.S. Atlantic stone crab trap/pot fisheries.
  • Mid-Atlantic Harbor Porpoise TRP (Maine through North Carolina) – affects the Mid-Atlantic gillnet and Northeast sink gillnet fisheries.
  • Bottlenose Dolphin TRP (New Jersey through Florida (East Coast)) – This plan affects the mid- Atlantic gillnet, Virginia pound net, Mid-Atlantic haul/beach seine, Atlantic blue crab trap/pot , North Carolina inshore gillnet, North Carolina roe mullet stop net, North Carolina long haul seine, Southeastern U.S. Atlantic shark gillnet, Southeast Atlantic gillnet, Chesapeake Bay inshore gillnet, Mid-Atlantic menhaden purse seine,  Southeastern U.S. Atlantic shrimp trawl, and Southeastern U.S. Atlantic stone crab trap/pot fisheries.
  • Pelagic Longline TRP (U.S. Atlantic waters) –This plan affects the U.S. pelagic longline fishery operating in the mid-Atlantic.
  • Atlantic Trawl Gear TRP (New York through North Carolina) – Currently, no regulations.  A strategy was developed to monitor the Mid-Atlantic mid-water trawl (including pair trawl), Mid-Atlantic bottom trawl, Northeast mid-water trawl (including pair trawl), Northeast bottom trawl fisheries and affected species.

For more specific information on the TRPs, and applicable regulations please visit: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/interactions/trt/teams.html or call the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office at (727)-824-5312.

Q: How can I avoid interacting with marine mammals?

A: The following are general guidelines for avoiding interactions with marine mammals:

  • If fishing from a boat, do not chum when marine mammals are nearby.
  • Avoid fishing in an area where marine mammals are actively feeding, as they may mistake bait for food or inadvertently become entangled in gear.
  • If marine mammals continue to interact with your gear, try hauling your gear and moving.
  • Avoid discarding fish waste and bycatch in the presence of marine mammals, as this may attract marine mammals to your vessel.
  • Never intentionally feed marine mammals, as this alters their natural behavior and may increase the incidence of hooking and entanglements.  Feeding or attempting to feed marine mammals is illegal.
  • Do not dispose of fishing gear in the water. Even small amounts can be harmful to marine mammals if entangled or ingested. Throwing plastic into the ocean is illegal.

 

Q: What should you do if you see a dead or injured marine mammal?

A: If you see a dead or injured marine mammal in the Southeast U.S., please note its location and species type (if known) and provide this information to Southeast U.S. Marine Mammal Stranding Network: 1-877-WHALE HELP (1-877-942-5343).  You may also download the smartphone app, Dolphin & Whale 911, for both iPhones and Androids, to find tips and recommendations on ways to help a dead or injured marine mammal.