Pinniped Deterrence Permitting Information (United States)

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972 and signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on October 21, 1972. The law prohibits, with certain exceptions, the taking of marine mammals, and also places a moratorium on the import, export, and sale of marine mammal product.

The law defines “take” as “the act of hunting, killing, capture, and/or harassment of any marine mammal, or the attempt as such.

1994 amendments to the law define “harassment” as “any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild; or has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering but which does not have the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild.”

The MMPA allows deterrence of marine mammals for ports, harbormasters, and other property owners in Title 1, Section 101(a). This provision directs the publishing in the Federal Register a list of guidelines for use in safely deterring marine mammals. The guidelines were published in the Federal Register on May 5, 1995. In January 2008, the West Coast Region office of NOAA-Fisheries further published a list of potential deterrence methods specific to Pacific harbor seals and California sea lions. The guidance in the West Coast Region document lists “electric livestock fencing” as a potential barrier/exclusion device. In short, this provides the link to the exclusion, allowed under MMPA, for use of a Smith-Root dock deterrence system to deter pinnipeds*.

* Western DPS of Steller sea lions are subject to additional regulations under the Endangered Species Act; further consultation with federal agencies may be needed prior to installing deterrence systems in areas where this population may exist.